Dom Casmurro Chapter 33


Capitu turned her back to me and faced the mirror again. I took hold of her hair, gathered it together and began passing the comb through it from her forehead down to the very tips, which hung at her waist. But with her standing up it was no use. Don’t forget that she was a trifle taller than I, though I would have had the same problem had we been the same height. I asked her to sit down. ‘It’ll be better if you sit down here.’

She sat down. ‘Now we shall see the famous hairdresser,’ she said, with a laugh.

I went on combing her hair with the utmost care, dividing it into two parts to form the two plaits. I did not do this all at once, or quickly as professional hairdressers might suppose, but slowly and deliberately, savouring the touch of those threads that were a part of her. It was clumsily performed, sometimes through carelessness, at others on purpose so that I could undo what had been done and redo it. My fingers brushed her neck or the cotton frock that covered her shoulders, giving me a sensation of pure delight. But no matter how much I wished it interminable, her hair ended. I did not pray to heaven to make it as long as that of Aurora because I was as yet unacquainted with that divinity, to whom the old poets introduced me later in life. But I wanted to go on combing it for centuries on end, to weave two plaits that would enclose eternity in an infinite number of coils. If you find this too exaggerated, unhappy reader, it is because you have never combed a young girl’s hair, never placed your adolescent hands on the youthful head of a nymph … A nymph! I’m completely given up to mythology. Just now, speaking of her whirlpool eyes, I even wrote ‘Thetis’. I crossed out ‘Thetis’, so let us cross out ‘nymph’, too. We’ll merely say a beloved creature, a word that includes every power, both Christian and pagan. Finally I finished the two plaits. Where was the ribbon to tie the ends together? There on the table was a miserable piece of crumpled silk. I joined the ends of the plaits, tied them together with a bow, put the final touches to my work, plumping it out here, flattening it there, and then said, ‘It’s finished.’

‘Does it look nice?’

‘Have a look in the mirror.’

Instead of going to the mirror what do you think Capitu did? Don’t forget she was sitting down, facing away from me. Capitu leaned backwards, tilting her head so far that I was obliged to catch hold of her to prevent her falling, for the back of the chair was low. Then I bent over her, which brought our heads together, but inverted so that the eyes of the one were in line with the mouth of the other. I told her to lift her head up or she would get dizzy or hurt her neck. I went so far as to say she looked ugly, but not even that argument moved her.

‘Get up, Capitu.’

She wouldn’t. She didn’t raise her head, and we remained there gazing at each other until her lips parted, my own drew closer, and …

That kiss produced an extraordinary effect. Capitu stood up quickly, while I retreated against the wall in a kind of trance, speechless and misty-eyed. When these cleared I saw that Capitu had hers fixed on the ground. I did not dare to speak, and even had I wanted to my tongue was tied. Dazed and incapable of movement I had no strength to tear myself from the wall and throw myself at her feet with a thousand passionate words of endearment. Do not mock my fifteen years, precocious reader. At seventeen, Des Grieux (Des Grieux himself) had as yet given no thought to the difference between the sexes.