Dom Casmurro Chapter 127


Near the house there was a barber who knew me by sight; he loved the violin and didn’t play too badly. As I passed by he was playing some piece or other. I stopped on the pavement to listen (any pretext will do for the grieving heart); he saw me and went on playing. He neglected to attend a client and then a second, who despite the late hour and it being a Sunday had gone there to entrust their faces to his razor. He lost them without missing a single note but went on playing for me. This attitude made me walk boldly to the door of his shop and stand facing him. At the back of the shop a dark-skinned girl raised the chintz curtain separating it from the house and came through; she wore a light dress and had a flower in her hair. She was his wife; having apparently noticed me from within she was now honouring me with her presence in return for the favour I rendered her husband. If I am not mistaken she said as much with her eyes. As for her husband, he now played with more feeling, seeing neither his wife nor his clients, his face glued to the instrument; he put his soul into his bow and played on, played on …

Oh, divine art! A group was gathering, so I left the shop door and walked home, let myself into the corridor and crept up the stairs. I never forgot that incident with the barber, either because it took place at a critical point in my life or because of this maxim, which compilers, if they so wish, may take from here and include in their school compendiums. The maxim is this: that people are slow to forget the good deeds they practise and in fact never forget them ever. That poor barber! He lost two shaves that night, his daily bread for the next day, just to play to a passer-by. Now suppose that the latter, instead of going away like I did, had remained at the door to hear him and make love to his wife. Then he, giving himself heart and soul to his bow and his violin, would really have cause to fiddle away in desperation. Oh, divine art!