Dom Casmurro Chapter 96


I explained José Dias’s idea to Capitu. She listened to me attentively and then looked sad.

‘If you go,’ she said, ‘you’ll forget all about me.’


‘Oh yes, you will. They say Europe is so beautiful and Italy especially. Isn’t that where the singers come from? You’ll forget me, Bentinho. Isn’t there some other way? Dona Glória is dying to get you out of the seminary.’

‘I know, but she considers herself bound by her promise.’ Capitu could think of no other plan, but neither did she adopt this one. She asked me, if by chance I should go to Rome, to swear to be back inside six months.

‘I swear.’

‘By God?’

‘By God, by everything. I swear that I shall be back at the end of six months.’

‘But what if the Pope hasn’t released you by then?’

‘I’ll write and tell you.’

‘And what if you were lying?’

Her words stung so sharply that I could think of nothing to say in reply.

Capitu made a joke of it, laughing and calling me a dissembler. Then she said she believed I would abide by my oath, but even so she did not immediately give her consent; she would see if there wasn’t some other way, and I, too, should do the same.

On my return to the seminary I explained everything to my friend Escobar, who listened with equal attention and ended up as sad as Capitu. His eyes, normally so restless, almost devoured me in their concentration. Suddenly I saw his face light up as an idea sprang to mind, and he said quickly, ‘No, Bentinho, that won’t be necessary. There is a better way – no, I won’t say better, because the Holy Father is always the best of all, but there is something else which will produce the same effect.’

‘What is it?’

‘Your mother promised to give a priest to God, didn’t she? Well then, let her give Him a priest, but not you. She can perfectly well adopt some young orphan boy and have him ordained at her own expense. She’ll have given a priest to the Church without you having to …’

‘That’s it! That’s exactly it!’

‘Don’t you agree?’ he went on. ‘Speak to the Protonotary about it. He’ll tell you whether or not it’s the same thing, or if you like I’ll speak to him. If he demurs, speak to the bishop.’

After some consideration, I replied, ‘Yes, that seems to be the answer. The promise is kept and the Church does not lose a priest.’

Escobar pointed out that on the financial side there was no problem; my mother would spend the same as with me, and an orphan would not require too much. He mentioned the rents of the houses, 1,070,000 réis, not counting the slaves.

‘There’s no other way,’ I said.

‘And we’ll leave together.’

‘You, too?’

‘Me, too. I’ll brush up my Latin and leave – I won’t bother to do theology. Even the Latin is not necessary. What good is it in business?’

‘In hoc signo vinces,’ I said, with a laugh.

I felt in a joking mood. Oh, how one ray of hope brightens the whole world! Escobar smiled, apparently pleased with my answer. Then we separated, both of us probably deep in thought. At least he seemed to be when I turned round and thanked him again from a distance for thinking up his plan, which was by far the best. He appeared to be delighted.

‘Once again,’ he said solemnly, ‘religion and liberty go well together.’