Dom Casmurro Chapter 32


Everything aroused Capitu’s curiosity. There were times, however, when I don’t know whether she was learning or teaching or doing both together as I did. I’ll save that for another chapter. In this one I’ll merely say that some days after my agreement with José Dias I went next door to see my friend. It was ten o’clock in the morning, and Dona Fortunata, who was in the garden, did not even wait for me to ask after her daughter.

‘She’s in the living-room combing her hair,’ she said. ‘Creep in quietly and give her a fright.’

I crept in, but either my feet or the mirror betrayed me. It probably wasn’t the latter, which was a little twopenny mirror (pardon its cheapness) bought from an Italian pedlar, with a rough frame and a tin hook, hanging on the wall between the two windows. If it wasn’t that it was my feet. Whichever it was, the truth is that I had barely entered the room when comb, hair, the girl herself flew into the air and I heard her say, ‘What’s wrong?’

‘Nothing’s wrong,’ I replied. ‘I came round to see you before Father Cabral arrives for his lesson. How did you get on last night?’

‘All right. Hasn’t José Dias spoken yet?’

‘I don’t think so.’

‘When is he going to?’

‘He told me that today or tomorrow he’ll bring up the subject. He won’t go straight to the point but just mention it in passing. Then he’ll say what he has to. First he wants to find out whether my mother has made up her mind …’

‘Her mind’s made up all right,’ interrupted Capitu. ‘And if we didn’t need someone to win her over once and for all it wouldn’t be worth broaching the matter. I don’t know whether José Dias has that much influence, but I think he’ll do everything he can if he’s convinced you don’t want to be a priest. But will he be able to? She normally listens to him. But if … Oh, this is hell! You insist he does, Bentinho.’

‘I will. He’ll have to speak to her today.’

‘You promise?’

‘I promise. Let me see your eyes, Capitu.’

I had remembered José Dias’s description of them, ‘sly and cunning like a gypsy’s’. I didn’t know what he meant by sly, but I knew what cunning was, and I wanted to see whether they could be called that. Capitu allowed me to gaze at them and examine them, only asking what the matter was and whether I hadn’t seen them before. I found nothing out of the ordinary – their colour and their tenderness were well known to me. My drawn-out contemplation apparently gave her a different idea of my intention; she imagined that it was a pretext to look at them much closer, with my longing eyes steadily fixed on hers, and as a result her own grew larger, ever larger and darker, with an expression that …

Rhetorical muse of lovers, give me an exact poetical image to describe those eyes of Capitu. I can think of no comparison which, without lowering the dignity of the style, can convey what they were and the effect they produced on me. Whirlpool eyes? Very well then, whirlpool eyes be it. That is the idea her new expression brings to mind. They had some mysterious, powerful fluidity that drew one into them like a whirlpool or a wave receding from the beach on a stormy day. So as not to be dragged in I clung to neighbouring parts – her ears, her arms, her hair that fell loosely over her shoulders. But immediately I returned to seek those pupils, that ever-growing

wave, dark and profound, that threatened to reach out, suck me in and engulf me. How many minutes did our game last? Only the clocks of heaven could register a space of time so infinite and yet so brief. Eternity has its own clocks, which never stop, yet still it wishes to know the duration of our joys and our suffering. To know the extent of the torments of their enemies in hell serves to double the pleasures of the favoured of heaven. Similarly, the number of the delights their foes enjoy in heaven increases the agony of those condemned to hell. This further torture was omitted by the divine Dante. But I have no intention here of emending the poets. What I wish to say is that after a brief pause I seized hold of Capitu’s hair, this time with my hands, and said to her – for the sake of saying something – that I would comb it for her if she wished.


‘Yes, me.’

‘More likely you’ll get it all tangled.’

‘If I get it tangled you can disentangle it afterwards.’

‘We’ll see.’