Dom Casmurro Chapter 37


‘Had Father Cabral been waiting for you very long?’

‘I didn’t have a lesson today. He gave me a holiday.’

I explained the reason for the holiday. I also told her that Father Cabral had spoken about my going to the seminary in support of my mother’s plans and said some bitter, rude things about him. After a moment’s reflection, Capitu asked if she might go to my house in the evening to offer her congratulations to the priest.

‘Of course you can, but what for?’

‘Papa will naturally want to go, too, but it would be better for him to go to Father Cabral’s house; that would be more correct. Not for me, though, since I’m now almost a young woman,’ she concluded with a laugh.

Her laugh encouraged me. Her words seemed to be a joke levelled at herself, since from that morning she was a woman as I myself was a man. I found it funny, and to make an end of the matter I wanted to prove to her that she was completely a young woman. Lightly I took hold of her right hand, then of her left, and stayed like that, breathless and trembling. My thoughts were only of hands. I wanted to pull Capitu’s to bring her nearer to me, but still the action was unequal to the desire. Nevertheless I considered myself strong and daring. I was not imitating anyone; I had never consorted with other boys to learn stories of love from them. I had not heard of the rape of Lucrece. All I knew of the Romans was that they spoke the language of Father Pereira’s handbook and that they were the compatriots of Pontius Pilate. I do not deny that the close of the hairdressing session was a great step forward in my initiation to love, but her gesture then was just the opposite of now. In the morning she had inclined her head; now she held it back. Nor was this the only difference: in one other aspect, what appeared to be a repetition was in fact a contrast.

I think I began to pull her towards me. I can’t swear to it, as by then I was becoming so excited that I was not conscious of all my actions. But I think I did because she drew back and tried to free her hands from mine. Then, perhaps because she was unable to retreat any further, she put one foot in front of the other and leaned away from me. It was this which obliged me to grip her hands tightly. Her body finally tired and gave way, but not her head, which by hanging back defied all my efforts; for by now, dear reader, I was making strong efforts. Unaware of the lessons of the Song of Solomon, it never occurred to me to place my left hand under her head. In any case this presupposes a mutual agreement, and Capitu, who was resisting me now, would have seized the opportunity to free her other hand and escape from me altogether. We were locked in a noiseless struggle, for despite the motions of attack and defence we were not forgetful of the need for caution lest we be overheard. The human soul is an enigma. Now I am sure that I was pulling her; still she kept her head back until it, too, tired, and then it was the turn of her mouth. Capitu’s mouth began to move in a direction contrary to mine, twisting to one side when my mouth was seeking hers at the other. One little effort more, just a very little one …

At that moment we heard a knock at the front door and a voice outside. It was Capitu’s father, who had returned from the office a little early, as was sometimes his habit.

‘Open the door, Nanata! Capitu, open the door!’

It was apparently a repetition of that morning’s incident but only apparently; in reality it was quite different. Bear in mind that in the morning everything was over, and Dona Fortunata’s footsteps had given us time to recover our composure. Now we were struggling hand to hand and nothing had even started.

We heard the sound of the latch as Capitu’s father opened the door to the corridor. Since I am confessing everything I declare here and now that I had no time to release my friend’s hands. I thought of doing so, and even tried to, but before her father walked in Capitu did an unexpected thing: she placed her lips on mine and gave of her own free will what, under compulsion, she had denied. I repeat, the human soul is an enigma.