Dom Casmurro Chapter 132


Not only his eyes but all his other features, his face, his body, his whole person, became more defined as time passed. It was like a rough sketch which the artist fills in and colours little by little: the figure starts to emerge, to breathe, almost to speak, and the family hang the portrait on the wall in memory of what once was and could never be again. Here it could be and was. Everyday intercourse disguised the effects of change, but change there was, not as in the theatre but like a day slowly dawning and growing lighter: at first you cannot read a letter, then you can read it in the street, in the house, in your study without opening the windows, the light filtering through the shutters being sufficient to make out the words. I read the letter, with difficulty at first and not all of it; then I read it more easily. It is true that I tore myself from it; put the paper in my pocket, ran through the house, locked myself in, left the windows closed and even closed my eyes. When I again opened my eyes and the letter, the words stood out and the message was all too evident.

In this way Escobar emerged from the grave, from the seminary, from Flamengo, to sit with me at the table, to greet me on the stairs, to kiss me in the morning in my study or ask the customary blessing at night. All this was repulsive to me, but I bore with it so as not to reveal myself to myself and to the world. But what I could conceal from the world I could not conceal from myself, detached as I was from all else. When neither mother nor son was present my despair was unbearable, and I swore to kill them both, either at a blow or else slowly, dragging out their death to compensate for all my hours of anguish and suffering. But when I arrived home and found that loving little creature waiting for me at the top of the stairs my resolve weakened, and I deferred his punishment until another day.

I shall not record what passed between Capitu and myself during those sombre days; it was petty and repetitive, and now so remote that to attempt to do so would be wearisome and involve omissions. But the main thing can be stated. And the main thing is that our storms were now continual and violent. Before making landfall on that evil coast of truth, we had experienced others of short duration; but the sky soon became blue, the sun bright and the sea calm wherever we unfurled the sails that carried us to the loveliest shores and islands in the world, until another gust of wind overturned everything and, with mainsails lowered, we waited for the next period of calm, which was neither uncertain nor long delayed but rather assured, close at hand and long lasting.

These metaphors have their significance. They recall the sea and the tide that took the life of my friend, my wife’s lover, Escobar. They recall, too, those whirlpool eyes of Capitu. And in this way, although I have always been a landsman, I can relate that part of my life as a sailor might his own shipwreck.

All that was lacking between us now was to say the final word, but we read it in each other’s eyes, clear and unequivocal, and Ezequiel’s presence only served to drive us further apart. Capitu suggested that we send him to boarding-school, from where he would only come home at weekends. The boy was not easily convinced.

‘I want to go with Papa! Papa must come with me!’ he shouted.

I took him there myself one Monday morning. It was in the former Largo da Lapa, not far from home. I walked, securing him by the hand, just as I had secured the coffin of the other. The boy was crying and asking questions at every step – would he come back home, when, and would I go to see him?

‘I will.’

‘No you won’t, Papa.’

‘Yes, I will.’

‘Will you promise?’

‘Of course.’

‘You didn’t say you promise, Papa.’

‘Well, I promise.’

I took him there and left him. His temporary absence did not lessen the tension, and all Capitu’s artifices to do so came to nothing. I felt worse than ever, and this new situation actually served to make things worse. Though Ezequiel was now out of my sight, whenever he came home at weekends, either through not having him always around or because time was passing and completing the likeness, it was Escobar who returned, more alive and active than ever. After a while even his voice seemed to me the same. On Saturdays I dined out and only came home when he was asleep, but I could not escape him on Sundays, in my office, surrounded by papers and documents. Ezequiel would burst in to talk to me, full of love and laughter, for the devil of a child grew daily more attached to me. To be honest, he aroused in me such aversion that I could barely conceal it from his mother and others. Not being able entirely to disguise my feelings, I took to avoiding him as much as possible; sometimes I had work that obliged me to lock my study; at others I would go for a walk on the Sunday into the city and suburbs, nursing my secret.