Dom Casmurro Chapter 136


My plan was to wait for my coffee, dissolve the poison in it and swallow it. Until then, not having entirely forgotten my Roman history, I remembered that before killing himself Cato read and reread one of Plato’s books. I had no Plato with me, but an abridged volume of Plutarch containing the life of the celebrated Roman was sufficient to entertain me for that short time, and in order to imitate him in everything I lay down on the sofa. It was not mere imitation; I needed to summon up some of his courage, just as he had needed the reflections of the philosopher to die bravely. One of the misfortunes of being ignorant is not to have this last-minute facility. Many people kill themselves without it and make a noble end; but I feel that many more would shorten their days if they only had the moral cocaine of a good book. However, to avoid any suspicion of imitation, I remember deciding to replace my Plutarch on the shelf so that it should not be found beside me and be included in the newspaper reports together with the colour of the trousers I was wearing at the time.

The servant brought me my coffee. I got up, put away the book and went to the table where he had left the cup. The house was already awake; it was time to make an end. My hand shook as I unwrapped the paper containing the poison. Even so I managed to pour it into the cup and began to stir the coffee; my eyes were dim, and I thought of the innocent Desdemona; the spectacle of the evening intruded into the reality of the morning. But Escobar’s photograph gave me the courage I needed; there he was, his hand on the back of a chair, gazing into the distance …

Let’s get it over with, I thought.

When I was about to drink it I wondered whether it might not be better to wait until Capitu and her son had gone to mass and then do so; yes, that would be better. Having made up my mind I began pacing up and down the study.

I heard Ezequiel’s voice in the corridor, then he came in and rushed up to me, shouting, ‘Papa! Papa!’

Reader, at this point something happened that I shall not describe since I have completely forgotten it, though it must have been both beautiful and tragic. At the boy’s entrance I retreated until my back was against the bookcase. Ezequiel hugged my knees and stretched up on his toes as if wanting to climb up and give me his customary kiss. He went on tugging at me and repeating, ‘Papa! Papa!’