Dom Casmurro Chapter 43


Suddenly rousing herself from her reflections, she turned her whirlpool eyes on me and asked if I was afraid.


‘Yes, I’m asking if you are afraid.’

‘Afraid of what?’

‘Afraid of being beaten, of being arrested, of fighting, of walking, of working …’

I didn’t understand. If she had simply said, ‘Let’s go away’, I might have obeyed her or not. In any case I would have understood her. But a question like that, vague and disconnected, I had no idea what it meant.

‘But … I don’t understand. Of being beaten?’


‘Beaten by whom? Who’s going to beat me?’

Capitu made a gesture of impatience. Her whirlpool eyes, without moving, seemed to grow wider and wider. Completely at a loss, and not wanting to ask her again, I fell to wondering where the beating would come from and why and also why I should be arrested and who would arrest me. God help me, in my mind’s eye I saw the prison, a dark, squalid cell. I also saw the press-gang, the Barbonos barracks and the reform school. All these splendid social institutions gripped my imagination, yet those whirlpool eyes of Capitu’s never ceased growing until they drove them all completely from my mind. Capitu’s mistake was in not allowing them to expand ad infinitum before resuming their normal dimensions and habitual movements. She returned to her customary self, saying that she was only joking and that I didn’t need to worry. Then, very tenderly, she stroked me on the cheek and said with a smile, ‘You’re afraid!’

‘Me? But …’

‘I didn’t mean it seriously, Bentinho. Who on earth is going to beat you or arrest you? Forgive me – I’m not feeling myself today. I was just joking and …’

‘No, Capitu, you’re not joking. At this moment neither of us feels like joking.’

‘You’re right, it was just a crazy idea of mine. Goodbye.’

‘What do you mean, goodbye?’

‘My headache is coming back. I’m going to put a slice of lemon on my forehead.’

She did as she said and tied the handkerchief again on her brow. Then she accompanied me into the yard to say goodbye, but we lingered for a few minutes there and sat down on the edge of the well. The wind was blowing, and the sky was overcast. Once again Capitu spoke of our separation, regarding it now as something definite and inevitable, no matter how much I, foreseeing this, tried to find arguments to comfort her. When she wasn’t talking Capitu drew noses and heads on the ground with a piece of bamboo. Ever since she started drawing it had become one of her pastimes, anything serving her for paper and pencil. I recalled how she had scratched our names on the wall, and I wanted to do the same on the ground; but when I asked her for the bamboo she either did not hear or else paid me no attention.