Dom Casmurro Chapter 7


My mother was a good soul. When her husband, Pedro de Albuquerque Santiago, died she was thirty-one years old and could have returned to Itaguai. But she did not want to, preferring to remain near the church where my father was buried. She sold the fazenda and the slaves and bought others whom she put to work or hired out, as well as a dozen houses and a quantity of shares, and settled down in the house in Matacavalos where she had lived for the last two years of her married life. She was the daughter of a lady from Minas, who was herself descended from a Paulista family, the Fernandes.

Now, in that year of grace 1857, Dona Maria da Glória Fernandes Santiago was forty-two years old. She was still young and pretty but insisted on concealing those relics of her youth despite all nature’s efforts to preserve them from the ravages of time. She wore an eternal plain dark dress, with a black shawl folded in a triangle and fastened at the breast with a cameo brooch. Her close-plaited hair was gathered at the neck and held by an old tortoiseshell comb, and occasionally she wore a white, frilled bonnet. Thus attired, and in her flat, soft leather shoes, she bustled about supervising the activities of the entire house from morning till night.

Over there on the wall I have a portrait of her beside her husband, just as they were in the other house. The painting is now very dark but still gives a good idea of them both. I remember nothing about him except vaguely that he was tall and had long hair. In the portrait he has round eyes, which used to follow me everywhere, an effect that terrified me as a child. His neck emerges from a voluminous black tie, and his face is clean-shaven except for a small area by the ears. The image of my mother shows that she was beautiful – she was then twenty years old. She is holding a flower in her fingers and is apparently offering it to her husband. Their faces seem to tell us that if happiness in marriage can be compared to the first prize in a lottery, they won it with a ticket they bought together.

My conclusion is that lotteries ought not to be abolished. No winner has ever accused them of being immoral, just as no one has condemned Pandora’s box because hope was left inside; it has to be left somewhere. So there I have them – the happily married couple of long ago, the blissful, fortunate lovers who left this life for the next, no doubt there to continue their dream. Whenever I am bored with lotteries and Pandora I gaze up at them and forget those white tickets and that fateful box. The portraits are worthy of the originals. That of my mother offering the flower to her husband seems to be saying, ‘I am all yours, my handsome gentleman.’ That of my father, looking at us, says, ‘See how this girl loves me …’ I do not know whether they suffered from ill health or any other afflictions; I was a child, and much happened before I was born. After he died I remember that she cried a lot. But here are their portraits, with their expressions undimmed by the passage of time. They are like instant photographs of happiness.