Dom Casmurro Chapter 138


When I looked up I saw Capitu standing facing me. It was another entrance like that on the stage and as easily explicable as the first since mother and son were going to mass, and Capitu never left without speaking to me. Just a few dry words, and most times I never bothered to look up at her, though she always looked at me and waited.

This time – I don’t know whether it was my eyes – she seemed livid. There followed one of those silences which, at such critical moments, seem to last ages. Finally, pulling herself together, Capitu sent her son away and asked me to explain myself.

‘There’s nothing to explain,’ I said.

‘There’s everything to explain. I don’t understand what you and Ezequiel were crying about. What happened between you?’

‘Didn’t you hear what I said to him?’

Capitu replied that she had heard the sound of weeping and some muttered words. I think she heard it all clearly, but to admit it would be to lose any hope of remaining silent and of reconciliation. For this reason she denied hearing anything, confirming only what she had seen. Without reference to the coffee, I repeated the words at the end of the chapter.

‘What’s that?’ she asked, as if she had not fully heard me.

‘That he is not my son.’

Capitu’s stupefaction and later indignation were so convincing as to have called into question the reliability of the principal witnesses at our tribunal. I have heard that witnesses can be arranged for certain cases – it is a question of price, though I find it hard to believe, especially since the man who told me this had just lost a case. But whether or not there are hired witnesses, mine was honest; nature herself testified for me, and I could not doubt her evidence. So, paying no heed to Capitu’s language, her gestures, the pain that contorted her features or to anything else, I repeated my words twice over, with such conviction as to silence her.

After a few moments, she said, ‘Such an insult can only be explained by your own sincere conviction. Yet you, who were always so suspicious of my every action, never gave the slightest hint of mistrust. What was it put such an idea into your head? Tell me,’ she went on, seeing that I said nothing in reply. ‘Tell me everything. After what I’ve just heard I have a right to hear the rest, which can’t be much. What can have made you believe such a thing? Come, Bentinho, say something. Tell me. Expel me from your house, but explain everything first.’

‘Some things can’t be explained.’

‘Or rather can’t be left half explained. And since you’ve told me half, tell me the rest.’

She had sat down on a chair by the table. Though she appeared upset, her attitude was not that of a defendant. I asked her once more not to insist.

‘No, Bentinho, either you tell me the rest so that I can defend myself, if you think I have any defence, or I ask for a separation. I can’t go on like this any longer.’

‘Our separation is something already decided on,’ I retorted, seizing upon her proposal. ‘It would have been better to have arranged it without recriminations, in silence, each one bearing his own wounds. However, since you insist, this is what I have to say, and it is all I have to say.’

I didn’t say everything. I could scarcely refer to her love for Escobar without mentioning his name. At this Capitu could not help laughing, such a laugh that I cannot describe here. Then, in a tone both sad and ironical, she said, ‘Even the dead! Not even the dead are safe from your jealousy!’

She adjusted her shawl and stood up. She sighed, at least I think she sighed, while I, who wanted nothing other than a full acquittal, muttered some words to this effect. Capitu gave me a look of contempt and murmured, ‘I know the reason. It’s the coincidence of the resemblance. The will of God alone can explain everything … You’re laughing? Yes, it’s only natural: in spite of the seminary you don’t believe in God. I do … But let’s not talk of that. We’d do better to say nothing more.’