Dom Casmurro Chapter 66


Capitu was now winning my mother’s heart. They spent most of their time together, talking about me or the sun and the rain or about nothing at all. In the morning Capitu went there to sew and sometimes stayed for dinner.

Cousin Justina did not show the same affection to her as my mother, but she was not unkind to my friend. She was sufficiently sincere to speak out if she thought ill of anyone, and there was no one of whom she thought well; except perhaps her husband. But her husband was dead, and in any case there was no man to be compared to him as regards affection, hard work, honesty, manners and readiness of wit. This opinion, according to Uncle Cosme, was posthumous, since when he was alive they were constantly quarrelling and for the last six months they had lived apart. It speaks well for her sense of justice, for to praise the dead is another way of praying for them. She also appeared to be fond of my mother, and if she thought ill of her it was something she confided only to her pillow. Understandably, she treated her outwardly with due respect. I don’t think she had in mind a legacy of some kind; people so disposed tend to exaggerate their concern, making themselves more cheerful, more solicitous, multiplying their attentions and forestalling the servants. All this was contrary to Cousin Justina’s nature, which was prickly and cantankerous. Since she lived there under favour, it was natural that she should show no disrespect to the lady of the house and stifle any resentment; if she spoke ill of her it was only to God or the Devil.

Any resentment she might have felt towards my mother was no reason for her to hate Capitu, nor did she require any additional reasons. However, this intimacy with Capitu made her more offhand with my mother, and, although at first she showed no animosity, as time passed her attitude changed and she kept her distance. Alert to this, whenever she was not about, Capitu would ask after her and seek her out. Cousin Justina accepted these attentions: life is full of obligations one observes, no matter how great the temptation openly to defy them. Moreover, Capitu had a certain captivating charm, and Cousin Justina would end up smiling, albeit sourly. But alone with my mother she would always find something spiteful to say about the girl.

When my mother went down with a fever that brought her almost to death’s door, she insisted that Capitu act as her nurse. Even though this relieved Cousin Justina of wearisome duties, she never forgave my friend for her interference. One day she asked her if she had nothing to do at home. On another occasion she laughed and came out with this epigram: ‘Don’t hurry: what’s to be yours is bound to fall into your hands.’