Dom Casmurro Chapter 71


At home they had lied to my mother, saying that I had returned and was changing my clothes.

‘The eight o’clock mass must have finished by now … Bentinho ought to be back … Could anything have happened to him, Brother Cosme? Send someone to find out …’ She went on like that minute after minute until I walked in and tranquillity was restored.

It was a day of pleasant surprises. Escobar came to visit me and enquire about my mother’s health. He had never visited me before, nor were we then as intimate as we later became, but, being aware of the reason for my departure three days earlier, he had taken advantage of Sunday to see me and find out whether my mother was still in danger or not.

When I replied that she wasn’t, he gave a sigh and said, ‘I was worried.’

‘Do the others know?’

‘I think so. A few of them do.’

Uncle Cosme and José Dias liked the lad, the latter claiming that he had once met his father in Rio de Janeiro. Escobar was very polite, and, though he spoke more than he did later, it was not as much as boys of our age normally do; that day I found him rather more expansive than usual. Uncle Cosme invited him to stay for dinner. After hesitating for a moment Escobar replied that his father’s representative was expecting him.

That reminded me of Gurgel’s words, so I repeated them. ‘We can send a servant to say you are staying here for dinner and will be along later.’

‘But that’s so much trouble.’

‘No trouble at all,’ put in Uncle Cosme.

Escobar accepted and stayed to dinner. I observed that those nervous movements of his, which he controlled in the classroom, he managed to control now, in the living-room and at table. We spent an hour together on the best of terms. I showed him the few books I possessed.

He admired the portrait of my father. After gazing at it for a few moments he turned to me and said, ‘You can see he was a good-hearted man.’

Escobar’s eyes, which were light in colour, as I have said, had the most gentle expression, as José Dias put it when he left, and I retain the adjective even after a lapse of forty years. In this he was not exaggerating. The lad’s clean-shaven face was white and smooth. His forehead was somewhat narrow, the parting of his hair beginning immediately over his left eyebrow, but it was sufficiently broad not to contrast with his other features or render them less attractive. He had the habit of twitching his right shoulder from time to time but lost it when one of us commented on it one day at the seminary. It was the first example I had seen of a man curing himself of a minor disability.

It was always a source of satisfaction to me when my friends succeeded in pleasing everyone. At home they all liked Escobar; even Cousin Justina admitted that he was a fine young man, despite … ‘Despite what?’ asked José Dias, seeing that she left the sentence unfinished. There was no reply, nor could there be one. Cousin Justina could probably find no obvious or important fault in our guest, and the ‘despite’ was a kind of reservation anticipating any she might one day discover; or else it was just force of habit which obliged her to express a reservation where none was to be found.

Escobar left shortly after dinner. I went with him to the gate, where we waited for a bus to pass. He told me that the representative’s store was in the Rua dos Pescadores and remained open until nine o’clock, but he did not want to be too late. We parted on the friendliest of terms, and he waved goodbye from the bus. I remained at the gate to see whether he would look back from far off, but he did not turn his head.

‘Who’s the bosom friend?’ asked someone from a nearby window.

Needless to say, it was Capitu. There are things in life that can be guessed at, as in books, whether romances or true stories. It was Capitu, who had been watching us for some time from behind the shutters and who now threw open the window and made her appearance. She had seen our affectionate lengthy farewells and wanted to know who it was that meant so much to me.

‘That was Escobar,’ I said, placing myself under the window and looking up at her.