Dom Casmurro Chapter 50


Some months later I went to the São José Seminary. If I were to recount all the tears I shed the day before and on the morning itself, they would exceed all that have flowed since the time of Adam and Eve. There is a certain amount of exaggeration in this, but it is a good thing to be emphatic occasionally to offset those scruples of exactitude that beset me. However, if I dwell solely on my memories of what I felt I shall not stray far from the truth; at fifteen everything is infinite. No matter how well prepared I was, I suffered a great deal. My mother suffered, too, but she put a brave face on it. Moreover, Father Cabral had proposed a compromise: I should give it a trial, and if after two years I had revealed no vocation for the Church I should take up another career.

‘Promises must be kept, as God requires. Now, supposing God withholds this disposition from your son and the seminary does not inspire in him that enthusiasm which He granted to me, it is because the divine will sees otherwise. You cannot instil into your unborn son a vocation that Our Lord himself has refused.’

It was a concession the priest made. It gave my mother an anticipated pardon, bringing from the creditor the cancellation of her debt. Her eyes sparkled, but her lips said no. José Dias, disappointed in his hopes of accompanying me to Europe, clung to the next best thing and approved ‘the Protonotary’s suggestion’, except that he considered one year would be enough.

‘I am sure’, he said, with a wink to me, ‘that before a year is out Bentinho’s vocation for the Church will have manifested itself clearly and incontrovertibly. Oh, he’ll make a fine priest all right. But if it hasn’t revealed itself by the end of a year …’

Later he said to me in private, ‘Go there for a year. A year soon passes. And if you still don’t like it, it’s because it is not God’s will, as the priest said. In which case, my young friend, the best solution is Europe.’

Capitu gave me the same advice when my mother told her of my coming departure to the seminary.

‘My daughter, I am afraid you are going to lose your childhood companion …’

She was so delighted at being called ‘daughter’ (it was the first time my mother had so addressed her) that she had no time even to feel miserable. She kissed her hand and said that she already knew because I had told her. When we were alone together she encouraged me to endure everything patiently: after a year things would change, and a year soon passes. This was not yet our leave-taking; that took place the day before my departure and in such a way as to demand a chapter to itself. All I shall say here is that just as we grew closer to one another so she attached herself more closely to my mother, showing herself more attentive and loving, keeping her company and watching over her. My mother was of an affectionate nature and sensitive, too, so that any small thing could equally delight or distress her. She discovered new qualities in Capitu, rare, precious gifts. She gave her one of her rings and other presents, more trifling ones. She refused to be photographed, as the girl wanted in order to have a picture of her. She had a miniature, painted when she was twenty-five, and after some hesitation decided to give it to her instead. It is impossible to describe Capitu’s eyes when she received the gift: they were neither sly nor like whirlpools but clear, bright and open. She kissed the portrait passionately, as my mother did her. Which reminds me of our leave-taking.