Dom Casmurro Chapter 42


The following day, as early as I could, I went next door. Capitu was saying goodbye to two friends of hers from school, Paula and Sancha, who had come to pay her a visit. The former was fifteen years old, the daughter of a doctor; the latter was seventeen, and her father was a tradesman dealing in American goods. Capitu looked tired and had a handkerchief tied round her head. Her mother told me that she had been reading too much the previous day – before and after tea, in the living-room and in bed with a lamp until long past midnight.

‘If I’d lit a candle, Mamma, you’d have been angry with me. I’m all right now.’

With that she undid the handkerchief, and when her mother timidly suggested that she ought to leave it on she replied that she didn’t need it as she was better.

We were left on our own in the room. Capitu confirmed what her mother had told me but added that she had felt unwell because of what she had heard in my house. For my part I told her what had happened to me, of my conversation with my mother, how I had pleaded with her, the tears she had shed, and finally the firm decision she had come to, that within two or three months I must go to the seminary. Capitu listened to me eagerly, then more gloomily. By the time I had finished she was barely breathing, as if about to explode with rage, but she controlled herself.

This happened so long ago that I cannot say with certainty whether she actually cried or merely wiped her eyes; I think she just wiped them. On seeing her gesture I held her hand in order to cheer her up, but I, too, was in need of cheering up. We collapsed on to the sofa and stayed gazing into space. No, that’s a lie; she was gazing at the floor. When I saw what she was doing I did the same. But I think that Capitu was gazing within herself, whereas I was really looking at the floor, the worm-eaten cracks, two flies crawling about and a cracked chair leg. It was not much but enough to distract me from my misery. When I looked up again at Capitu I saw that she hadn’t moved, and I became so scared that I shook her gently. She came to herself and asked me to tell her once again all that had passed between my mother and myself. I did as she asked, this time moderating my account so as not to upset her. Do not accuse me of dissimulation, rather call me compassionate. It is true I was afraid of losing Capitu if all her hopes should be shattered, but it hurt me to see her suffering. However, the whole truth of the matter was that I already repented of having spoken to my mother before José Dias had had time to play his part. On further consideration, it was the fact of having met with a rebuff which, though I considered it certain, might have been delayed longer. Meanwhile Capitu sat there deep in thought.