Dom Casmurro Chapter 145


It was in this house that one day, while I was dressing for lunch, I received a visiting-card with the name:


‘Is he downstairs?’ I asked the servant.

‘Yes, senhor. He’s waiting.’

I didn’t go right away but kept him waiting ten or fifteen minutes in the living-room. Only later did I realize that I ought to have been more demonstrative – rushed and hugged him and talked about his mother. His mother – I think I forgot to mention that she was dead. She died and was buried in Switzerland. I finished dressing hurriedly. On leaving my bedroom I assumed the role of a father, one who was loving but also stern and taciturn. When I entered the living-room I saw a young man standing with his back to me, looking at the bust of Masinissa painted on the wall. I walked in quietly without making a noise. Nevertheless he heard my steps and turned round sharply. He recognized me from my photographs and ran to me. I did not move; he was none other than my former young friend from the São Jose seminary, a little shorter, a little thinner but, apart from his complexion, which was lighter, with the same face. Naturally, his clothes were modern and his manners different, but his general appearance was that of my dead friend. It was exactly him, it was Escobar himself. It was my wife’s lover; it was the son of his father. He was wearing mourning for his mother, and I, too, was in black. We sat down.

‘You’re just the same as in your latest photographs,’ he said. His voice was the same as Escobar’s, though with a French accent. I said that I hadn’t changed much lately and then began asking him questions in order to talk less myself and so control my emotion. But at this his face lit up, and more and more my seminarist friend re-emerged from the cemetery. He sat there in front of me, with the same smile and respectful manner, the very same person, the same politeness, the same charm. He had been looking forward to seeing me. His mother had spoken a lot about me, praising me to the skies, saying I was the finest man in the world, the most worthy and lovable.

‘She was still beautiful when she died,’ he concluded.

‘Let’s have lunch.’

If you think it was a cheerless lunch you are wrong. It had its bitter moments, to be sure; at first it hurt that Ezequiel was not really my son, a part of me, someone who would carry on after me. Had the lad taken after his mother I should have ended up believing everything, the more so since, as he recalled his boyhood, past events and conversations, his going to college, it seemed only the other day that he had left me.

‘Father, do you remember that day you took me to school?’ he asked with a laugh.

‘How could I forget?’

‘It was in Lapa. I was terrified, and you wouldn’t stop. You pulled me along, and me with my tiny legs …Yes, senhor, I’ll have another glass.’

He held out his glass for the wine I offered him, took a sip and went on eating. Escobar used to eat like that, too, with his face buried in his plate. He told me about his life in Europe, his studies, particularly in archaeology, which was his passion. He spoke enthusiastically about ancient history, mentioning Egypt with its thousands of centuries without confusing his figures; he had his father’s head for arithmetic. Even though I was by now hardened to the idea of the other’s paternity, I found his resurrection abhorrent. At times I closed my eyes so as not to see his gestures or anything, but the young devil talked and laughed, and the dead man talked and laughed through him.

Since there was no alternative but to accept him, I became a true father. The idea that he might have seen some photograph of Escobar that Capitu had thoughtlessly taken with her never occurred to me, and if it had done it wouldn’t have worried me. Ezequiel believed in me as firmly as in his mother. If he had been alive José Dias would have found him the image of myself. Cousin Justina wanted to see him, but as she was ill she asked me to take him there. He knew of her. I think her wish to see Ezequiel was to verify whether the young man’s appearance vindicated suspicions she might earlier have entertained concerning the boy. It would be a final gratification, but I forestalled her.

‘She’s very ill,’ I told Ezequiel, who was anxious to see her. ‘The slightest emotion might be fatal. We’ll go and see her when she’s better.’

We never went. Death carried her off a few days later. She now rests with the Lord, or however you care to put it. Ezequiel saw her face in the coffin but did not recognize her, nor could he have been expected to, changed as she was by death and the passage of years. On the way to the cemetery he was delighted to be able to remember a number of things – a road, a steeple or a stretch of beach. This happened every day when he returned home; he would tell me of familiar houses and streets he had seen. It surprised him that many of these were the same as when he had left, as if houses died young.

After six months Ezequiel told me of a scientific expedition he intended to make, to Greece, Egypt and Palestine. It was a promise he had made to some friends.

‘Of which sex?’ I asked, with a laugh.

He smiled but looked annoyed and replied that women were creatures of fashion, so wrapped up in the present that they could never understand a ruin thirty centuries old. They were two university friends. I promised him money and later gave him the necessary funds. To myself I said that one of the consequences of his father’s furtive love affairs was that I should pay for his son to become an archaeologist; I’d rather he became a leper … No sooner did this thought enter my head than I felt so cruel and perverse that I seized him and would have hugged him to me, but I held back. I gazed at him as one would one’s own son, and the look he gave me was one of tenderness and gratitude.