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CHAPTER XXXIV

IN WHICH IS CONTINUED THE NOVEL OF "THE ILL-ADVISED CURIOSITY"

"It is commonly said that an army looks ill without its general
and a castle without its castellan, and I say that a young married
woman looks still worse without her husband unless there are very good
reasons for it. I find myself so ill at ease without you, and so
incapable of enduring this separation, that unless you return
quickly I shall have to go for relief to my parents' house, even if
I leave yours without a protector; for the one you left me, if
indeed he deserved that title, has, I think, more regard to his own
pleasure than to what concerns you: as you are possessed of
discernment I need say no more to you, nor indeed is it fitting I
should say more."

Anselmo received this letter, and from it he gathered that
Lothario had already begun his task and that Camilla must have replied
to him as he would have wished; and delighted beyond measure at such
intelligence he sent word to her not to leave his house on any
account, as he would very shortly return. Camilla was astonished at
Anselmo's reply, which placed her in greater perplexity than before,
for she neither dared to remain in her own house, nor yet to go to her
parents'; for in remaining her virtue was imperilled, and in going she
was opposing her husband's commands. Finally she decided upon what was
the worse course for her, to remain, resolving not to fly from the
presence of Lothario, that she might not give food for gossip to her
servants; and she now began to regret having written as she had to her
husband, fearing he might imagine that Lothario had perceived in her
some lightness which had impelled him to lay aside the respect he owed
her; but confident of her rectitude she put her trust in God and in
her own virtuous intentions, with which she hoped to resist in silence
all the solicitations of Lothario, without saying anything to her
husband so as not to involve him in any quarrel or trouble; and she
even began to consider how to excuse Lothario to Anselmo when he
should ask her what it was that induced her to write that letter. With
these resolutions, more honourable than judicious or effectual, she
remained the next day listening to Lothario, who pressed his suit so
strenuously that Camilla's firmness began to waver, and her virtue had
enough to do to come to the rescue of her eyes and keep them from
showing signs of a certain tender compassion which the tears and
appeals of Lothario had awakened in her bosom. Lothario observed all
this, and it inflamed him all the more. In short he felt that while
Anselmo's absence afforded time and opportunity he must press the
siege of the fortress, and so he assailed her self-esteem with praises
of her beauty, for there is nothing that more quickly reduces and
levels the castle towers of fair women's vanity than vanity itself
upon the tongue of flattery. In fact with the utmost assiduity he
undermined the rock of her purity with such engines that had Camilla
been of brass she must have fallen. He wept, he entreated, he
promised, he flattered, he importuned, he pretended with so much
feeling and apparent sincerity, that he overthrew the virtuous
resolves of Camilla and won the triumph he least expected and most
longed for. Camilla yielded, Camilla fell; but what wonder if the
friendship of Lothario could not stand firm? A clear proof to us
that the passion of love is to be conquered only by flying from it,
and that no one should engage in a struggle with an enemy so mighty;
for divine strength is needed to overcome his human power. Leonela
alone knew of her mistress's weakness, for the two false friends and
new lovers were unable to conceal it. Lothario did not care to tell
Camilla the object Anselmo had in view, nor that he had afforded him
the opportunity of attaining such a result, lest she should undervalue
his love and think that it was by chance and without intending it
and not of his own accord that he had made love to her.

A few days later Anselmo returned to his house and did not
perceive what it had lost, that which he so lightly treated and so
highly prized. He went at once to see Lothario, and found him at home;
they embraced each other, and Anselmo asked for the tidings of his
life or his death.

"The tidings I have to give thee, Anselmo my friend," said Lothario,
"are that thou dost possess a wife that is worthy to be the pattern
and crown of all good wives. The words that I have addressed to her
were borne away on the wind, my promises have been despised, my
presents have been refused, such feigned tears as I shed have been
turned into open ridicule. In short, as Camilla is the essence of
all beauty, so is she the treasure-house where purity dwells, and
gentleness and modesty abide with all the virtues that can confer
praise, honour, and happiness upon a woman. Take back thy money, my
friend; here it is, and I have had no need to touch it, for the
chastity of Camilla yields not to things so base as gifts or promises.
Be content, Anselmo, and refrain from making further proof; and as
thou hast passed dryshod through the sea of those doubts and
suspicions that are and may be entertained of women, seek not to
plunge again into the deep ocean of new embarrassments, or with
another pilot make trial of the goodness and strength of the bark that
Heaven has granted thee for thy passage across the sea of this
world; but reckon thyself now safe in port, moor thyself with the
anchor of sound reflection, and rest in peace until thou art called
upon to pay that debt which no nobility on earth can escape paying."

Anselmo was completely satisfied by the words of Lothario, and
believed them as fully as if they had been spoken by an oracle;
nevertheless he begged of him not to relinquish the undertaking,
were it but for the sake of curiosity and amusement; though
thenceforward he need not make use of the same earnest endeavours as
before; all he wished him to do was to write some verses to her,
praising her under the name of Chloris, for he himself would give
her to understand that he was in love with a lady to whom he had given
that name to enable him to sing her praises with the decorum due to
her modesty; and if Lothario were unwilling to take the trouble of
writing the verses he would compose them himself.

"That will not be necessary," said Lothario, "for the muses are
not such enemies of mine but that they visit me now and then in the
course of the year. Do thou tell Camilla what thou hast proposed about
a pretended amour of mine; as for the verses will make them, and if
not as good as the subject deserves, they shall be at least the best I
can produce." An agreement to this effect was made between the
friends, the ill-advised one and the treacherous, and Anselmo
returning to his house asked Camilla the question she already wondered
he had not asked before- what it was that had caused her to write
the letter she had sent him. Camilla replied that it had seemed to her
that Lothario looked at her somewhat more freely than when he had been
at home; but that now she was undeceived and believed it to have
been only her own imagination, for Lothario now avoided seeing her, or
being alone with her. Anselmo told her she might be quite easy on
the score of that suspicion, for he knew that Lothario was in love
with a damsel of rank in the city whom he celebrated under the name of
Chloris, and that even if he were not, his fidelity and their great
friendship left no room for fear. Had not Camilla, however, been
informed beforehand by Lothario that this love for Chloris was a
pretence, and that he himself had told Anselmo of it in order to be
able sometimes to give utterance to the praises of Camilla herself, no
doubt she would have fallen into the despairing toils of jealousy; but
being forewarned she received the startling news without uneasiness.

The next day as the three were at table Anselmo asked Lothario to
recite something of what he had composed for his mistress Chloris; for
as Camilla did not know her, he might safely say what he liked.

"Even did she know her," returned Lothario, "I would hide nothing,
for when a lover praises his lady's beauty, and charges her with
cruelty, he casts no imputation upon her fair name; at any rate, all I
can say is that yesterday I made a sonnet on the ingratitude of this
Chloris, which goes thus:


SONNET

At midnight, in the silence, when the eyes
Of happier mortals balmy slumbers close,
The weary tale of my unnumbered woes
To Chloris and to Heaven is wont to rise.
And when the light of day returning dyes
The portals of the east with tints of rose,
With undiminished force my sorrow flows
In broken accents and in burning sighs.
And when the sun ascends his star-girt throne,
And on the earth pours down his midday beams,
Noon but renews my wailing and my tears;
And with the night again goes up my moan.
Yet ever in my agony it seems
To me that neither Heaven nor Chloris hears."


The sonnet pleased Camilla, and still more Anselmo, for he praised
it and said the lady was excessively cruel who made no return for
sincerity so manifest. On which Camilla said, "Then all that
love-smitten poets say is true?"

"As poets they do not tell the truth," replied Lothario; "but as
lovers they are not more defective in expression than they are
truthful."

"There is no doubt of that," observed Anselmo, anxious to support
and uphold Lothario's ideas with Camilla, who was as regardless of his
design as she was deep in love with Lothario; and so taking delight in
anything that was his, and knowing that his thoughts and writings
had her for their object, and that she herself was the real Chloris,
she asked him to repeat some other sonnet or verses if he
recollected any.

"I do," replied Lothario, "but I do not think it as good as the
first one, or, more correctly speaking, less bad; but you can easily
judge, for it is this.


SONNET

I know that I am doomed; death is to me
As certain as that thou, ungrateful fair,
Dead at thy feet shouldst see me lying, ere
My heart repented of its love for thee.
If buried in oblivion I should be,
Bereft of life, fame, favour, even there
It would be found that I thy image bear
Deep graven in my breast for all to see.
This like some holy relic do I prize
To save me from the fate my truth entails,
Truth that to thy hard heart its vigour owes.
Alas for him that under lowering skies,
In peril o'er a trackless ocean sails,
Where neither friendly port nor pole-star shows."


Anselmo praised this second sonnet too, as he had praised the first;
and so he went on adding link after link to the chain with which he
was binding himself and making his dishonour secure; for when Lothario
was doing most to dishonour him he told him he was most honoured;
and thus each step that Camilla descended towards the depths of her
abasement, she mounted, in his opinion, towards the summit of virtue
and fair fame.

It so happened that finding herself on one occasion alone with her
maid, Camilla said to her, "I am ashamed to think, my dear Leonela,
how lightly I have valued myself that I did not compel Lothario to
purchase by at least some expenditure of time that full possession
of me that I so quickly yielded him of my own free will. I fear that
he will think ill of my pliancy or lightness, not considering the
irresistible influence he brought to bear upon me."

"Let not that trouble you, my lady," said Leonela, "for it does
not take away the value of the thing given or make it the less
precious to give it quickly if it be really valuable and worthy of
being prized; nay, they are wont to say that he who gives quickly
gives twice."

"They say also," said Camilla, "that what costs little is valued
less."

"That saying does not hold good in your case," replied Leonela, "for
love, as I have heard say, sometimes flies and sometimes walks; with
this one it runs, with that it moves slowly; some it cools, others
it burns; some it wounds, others it slays; it begins the course of its
desires, and at the same moment completes and ends it; in the
morning it will lay siege to a fortress and by night will have taken
it, for there is no power that can resist it; so what are you in dread
of, what do you fear, when the same must have befallen Lothario,
love having chosen the absence of my lord as the instrument for
subduing you? and it was absolutely necessary to complete then what
love had resolved upon, without affording the time to let Anselmo
return and by his presence compel the work to be left unfinished;
for love has no better agent for carrying out his designs than
opportunity; and of opportunity he avails himself in all his feats,
especially at the outset. All this I know well myself, more by
experience than by hearsay, and some day, senora, I will enlighten you
on the subject, for I am of your flesh and blood too. Moreover, lady
Camilla, you did not surrender yourself or yield so quickly but that
first you saw Lothario's whole soul in his eyes, in his sighs, in
his words, his promises and his gifts, and by it and his good
qualities perceived how worthy he was of your love. This, then,
being the case, let not these scrupulous and prudish ideas trouble
your imagination, but be assured that Lothario prizes you as you do
him, and rest content and satisfied that as you are caught in the
noose of love it is one of worth and merit that has taken you, and one
that has not only the four S's that they say true lovers ought to
have, but a complete alphabet; only listen to me and you will see
how I can repeat it by rote. He is to my eyes and thinking, Amiable,
Brave, Courteous, Distinguished, Elegant, Fond, Gay, Honourable,
Illustrious, Loyal, Manly, Noble, Open, Polite, Quickwitted, Rich, and
the S's according to the saying, and then Tender, Veracious: X does
not suit him, for it is a rough letter; Y has been given already;
and Z Zealous for your honour."

Camilla laughed at her maid's alphabet, and perceived her to be more
experienced in love affairs than she said, which she admitted,
confessing to Camilla that she had love passages with a young man of
good birth of the same city. Camilla was uneasy at this, dreading lest
it might prove the means of endangering her honour, and asked
whether her intrigue had gone beyond words, and she with little
shame and much effrontery said it had; for certain it is that
ladies' imprudences make servants shameless, who, when they see
their mistresses make a false step, think nothing of going astray
themselves, or of its being known. All that Camilla could do was to
entreat Leonela to say nothing about her doings to him whom she called
her lover, and to conduct her own affairs secretly lest they should
come to the knowledge of Anselmo or of Lothario. Leonela said she
would, but kept her word in such a way that she confirmed Camilla's
apprehension of losing her reputation through her means; for this
abandoned and bold Leonela, as soon as she perceived that her
mistress's demeanour was not what it was wont to be, had the
audacity to introduce her lover into the house, confident that even if
her mistress saw him she would not dare to expose him; for the sins of
mistresses entail this mischief among others; they make themselves the
slaves of their own servants, and are obliged to hide their laxities
and depravities; as was the case with Camilla, who though she
perceived, not once but many times, that Leonela was with her lover in
some room of the house, not only did not dare to chide her, but
afforded her opportunities for concealing him and removed all
difficulties, lest he should be seen by her husband. She was unable,
however, to prevent him from being seen on one occasion, as he sallied
forth at daybreak, by Lothario, who, not knowing who he was, at
first took him for a spectre; but, as soon as he saw him hasten
away, muffling his face with his cloak and concealing himself
carefully and cautiously, he rejected this foolish idea, and adopted
another, which would have been the ruin of all had not Camilla found a
remedy. It did not occur to Lothario that this man he had seen issuing
at such an untimely hour from Anselmo's house could have entered it on
Leonela's account, nor did he even remember there was such a person as
Leonela; all he thought was that as Camilla had been light and
yielding with him, so she had been with another; for this further
penalty the erring woman's sin brings with it, that her honour is
distrusted even by him to whose overtures and persuasions she has
yielded; and he believes her to have surrendered more easily to
others, and gives implicit credence to every suspicion that comes into
his mind. All Lothario's good sense seems to have failed him at this
juncture; all his prudent maxims escaped his memory; for without
once reflecting rationally, and without more ado, in his impatience
and in the blindness of the jealous rage that gnawed his heart, and
dying to revenge himself upon Camilla, who had done him no wrong,
before Anselmo had risen he hastened to him and said to him, "Know,
Anselmo, that for several days past I have been struggling with
myself, striving to withhold from thee what it is no longer possible
or right that I should conceal from thee. Know that Camilla's fortress
has surrendered and is ready to submit to my will; and if I have
been slow to reveal this fact to thee, it was in order to see if it
were some light caprice of hers, or if she sought to try me and
ascertain if the love I began to make to her with thy permission was
made with a serious intention. I thought, too, that she, if she were
what she ought to be, and what we both believed her, would have ere
this given thee information of my addresses; but seeing that she
delays, I believe the truth of the promise she has given me that the
next time thou art absent from the house she will grant me an
interview in the closet where thy jewels are kept (and it was true
that Camilla used to meet him there); but I do not wish thee to rush
precipitately to take vengeance, for the sin is as yet only
committed in intention, and Camilla's may change perhaps between
this and the appointed time, and repentance spring up in its place. As
hitherto thou hast always followed my advice wholly or in part, follow
and observe this that I will give thee now, so that, without
mistake, and with mature deliberation, thou mayest satisfy thyself
as to what may seem the best course; pretend to absent thyself for two
or three days as thou hast been wont to do on other occasions, and
contrive to hide thyself in the closet; for the tapestries and other
things there afford great facilities for thy concealment, and then
thou wilt see with thine own eyes and I with mine what Camilla's
purpose may be. And if it be a guilty one, which may be feared
rather than expected, with silence, prudence, and discretion thou
canst thyself become the instrument of punishment for the wrong done
thee."

Anselmo was amazed, overwhelmed, and astounded at the words of
Lothario, which came upon him at a time when he least expected to hear
them, for he now looked upon Camilla as having triumphed over the
pretended attacks of Lothario, and was beginning to enjoy the glory of
her victory. He remained silent for a considerable time, looking on
the ground with fixed gaze, and at length said, "Thou hast behaved,
Lothario, as I expected of thy friendship: I will follow thy advice in
everything; do as thou wilt, and keep this secret as thou seest it
should be kept in circumstances so unlooked for."

Lothario gave him his word, but after leaving him he repented
altogether of what he had said to him, perceiving how foolishly he had
acted, as he might have revenged himself upon Camilla in some less
cruel and degrading way. He cursed his want of sense, condemned his
hasty resolution, and knew not what course to take to undo the
mischief or find some ready escape from it. At last he decided upon
revealing all to Camilla, and, as there was no want of opportunity for
doing so, he found her alone the same day; but she, as soon as she had
the chance of speaking to him, said, "Lothario my friend, I must
tell thee I have a sorrow in my heart which fills it so that it
seems ready to burst; and it will be a wonder if it does not; for
the audacity of Leonela has now reached such a pitch that every
night she conceals a gallant of hers in this house and remains with
him till morning, at the expense of my reputation; inasmuch as it is
open to anyone to question it who may see him quitting my house at
such unseasonable hours; but what distresses me is that I cannot
punish or chide her, for her privity to our intrigue bridles my
mouth and keeps me silent about hers, while I am dreading that some
catastrophe will come of it."

As Camilla said this Lothario at first imagined it was some device
to delude him into the idea that the man he had seen going out was
Leonela's lover and not hers; but when he saw how she wept and
suffered, and begged him to help her, he became convinced of the
truth, and the conviction completed his confusion and remorse;
however, he told Camilla not to distress herself, as he would take
measures to put a stop to the insolence of Leonela. At the same time
he told her what, driven by the fierce rage of jealousy, he had said
to Anselmo, and how he had arranged to hide himself in the closet that
he might there see plainly how little she preserved her fidelity to
him; and he entreated her pardon for this madness, and her advice as
to how to repair it, and escape safely from the intricate labyrinth in
which his imprudence had involved him. Camilla was struck with alarm
at hearing what Lothario said, and with much anger, and great good
sense, she reproved him and rebuked his base design and the foolish
and mischievous resolution he had made; but as woman has by nature a
nimbler wit than man for good and for evil, though it is apt to fail
when she sets herself deliberately to reason, Camilla on the spur of
the moment thought of a way to remedy what was to all appearance
irremediable, and told Lothario to contrive that the next day
Anselmo should conceal himself in the place he mentioned, for she
hoped from his concealment to obtain the means of their enjoying
themselves for the future without any apprehension; and without
revealing her purpose to him entirely she charged him to be careful,
as soon as Anselmo was concealed, to come to her when Leonela should
call him, and to all she said to him to answer as he would have
answered had he not known that Anselmo was listening. Lothario pressed
her to explain her intention fully, so that he might with more
certainty and precaution take care to do what he saw to be needful.

"I tell you," said Camilla, "there is nothing to take care of except
to answer me what I shall ask you;" for she did not wish to explain to
him beforehand what she meant to do, fearing lest he should be
unwilling to follow out an idea which seemed to her such a good one,
and should try or devise some other less practicable plan.

Lothario then retired, and the next day Anselmo, under pretence of
going to his friend's country house, took his departure, and then
returned to conceal himself, which he was able to do easily, as
Camilla and Leonela took care to give him the opportunity; and so he
placed himself in hiding in the state of agitation that it may be
imagined he would feel who expected to see the vitals of his honour
laid bare before his eyes, and found himself on the point of losing
the supreme blessing he thought he possessed in his beloved Camilla.
Having made sure of Anselmo's being in his hiding-place, Camilla and
Leonela entered the closet, and the instant she set foot within it
Camilla said, with a deep sigh, "Ah! dear Leonela, would it not be
better, before I do what I am unwilling you should know lest you
should seek to prevent it, that you should take Anselmo's dagger
that I have asked of you and with it pierce this vile heart of mine?
But no; there is no reason why I should suffer the punishment of
another's fault. I will first know what it is that the bold licentious
eyes of Lothario have seen in me that could have encouraged him to
reveal to me a design so base as that which he has disclosed
regardless of his friend and of my honour. Go to the window,
Leonela, and call him, for no doubt he is in the street waiting to
carry out his vile project; but mine, cruel it may be, but honourable,
shall be carried out first."

"Ah, senora," said the crafty Leonela, who knew her part, "what is
it you want to do with this dagger? Can it be that you mean to take
your own life, or Lothario's? for whichever you mean to do, it will
lead to the loss of your reputation and good name. It is better to
dissemble your wrong and not give this wicked man the chance of
entering the house now and finding us alone; consider, senora, we
are weak women and he is a man, and determined, and as he comes with
such a base purpose, blind and urged by passion, perhaps before you
can put yours into execution he may do what will be worse for you than
taking your life. Ill betide my master, Anselmo, for giving such
authority in his house to this shameless fellow! And supposing you
kill him, senora, as I suspect you mean to do, what shall we do with
him when he is dead?"

"What, my friend?" replied Camilla, "we shall leave him for
Anselmo to bury him; for in reason it will be to him a light labour to
hide his own infamy under ground. Summon him, make haste, for all
the time I delay in taking vengeance for my wrong seems to me an
offence against the loyalty I owe my husband."

Anselmo was listening to all this, and every word that Camilla
uttered made him change his mind; but when he heard that it was
resolved to kill Lothario his first impulse was to come out and show
himself to avert such a disaster; but in his anxiety to see the
issue of a resolution so bold and virtuous he restrained himself,
intending to come forth in time to prevent the deed. At this moment
Camilla, throwing herself upon a bed that was close by, swooned
away, and Leonela began to weep bitterly, exclaiming, "Woe is me! that
I should be fated to have dying here in my arms the flower of virtue
upon earth, the crown of true wives, the pattern of chastity!" with
more to the same effect, so that anyone who heard her would have taken
her for the most tender-hearted and faithful handmaid in the world,
and her mistress for another persecuted Penelope.

Camilla was not long in recovering from her fainting fit and on
coming to herself she said, "Why do you not go, Leonela, to call
hither that friend, the falsest to his friend the sun ever shone
upon or night concealed? Away, run, haste, speed! lest the fire of
my wrath burn itself out with delay, and the righteous vengeance
that I hope for melt away in menaces and maledictions."

"I am just going to call him, senora," said Leonela; "but you must
first give me that dagger, lest while I am gone you should by means of
it give cause to all who love you to weep all their lives."

"Go in peace, dear Leonela, I will not do so," said Camilla, "for
rash and foolish as I may be, to your mind, in defending my honour,
I am not going to be so much so as that Lucretia who they say killed
herself without having done anything wrong, and without having first
killed him on whom the guilt of her misfortune lay. I shall die, if
I am to die; but it must be after full vengeance upon him who has
brought me here to weep over audacity that no fault of mine gave birth
to."

Leonela required much pressing before she would go to summon
Lothario, but at last she went, and while awaiting her return
Camilla continued, as if speaking to herself, "Good God! would it
not have been more prudent to have repulsed Lothario, as I have done
many a time before, than to allow him, as I am now doing, to think
me unchaste and vile, even for the short time I must wait until I
undeceive him? No doubt it would have been better; but I should not be
avenged, nor the honour of my husband vindicated, should he find so
clear and easy an escape from the strait into which his depravity
has led him. Let the traitor pay with his life for the temerity of his
wanton wishes, and let the world know (if haply it shall ever come
to know) that Camilla not only preserved her allegiance to her
husband, but avenged him of the man who dared to wrong him. Still, I
think it might be better to disclose this to Anselmo. But then I
have called his attention to it in the letter I wrote to him in the
country, and, if he did nothing to prevent the mischief I there
pointed out to him, I suppose it was that from pure goodness of
heart and trustfulness he would not and could not believe that any
thought against his honour could harbour in the breast of so stanch
a friend; nor indeed did I myself believe it for many days, nor should
I have ever believed it if his insolence had not gone so far as to
make it manifest by open presents, lavish promises, and ceaseless
tears. But why do I argue thus? Does a bold determination stand in
need of arguments? Surely not. Then traitors avaunt! Vengeance to my
aid! Let the false one come, approach, advance, die, yield up his
life, and then befall what may. Pure I came to him whom Heaven
bestowed upon me, pure I shall leave him; and at the worst bathed in
my own chaste blood and in the foul blood of the falsest friend that
friendship ever saw in the world;" and as she uttered these words
she paced the room holding the unsheathed dagger, with such
irregular and disordered steps, and such gestures that one would
have supposed her to have lost her senses, and taken her for some
violent desperado instead of a delicate woman.

Anselmo, hidden behind some tapestries where he had concealed
himself, beheld and was amazed at all, and already felt that what he
had seen and heard was a sufficient answer to even greater suspicions;
and he would have been now well pleased if the proof afforded by
Lothario's coming were dispensed with, as he feared some sudden
mishap; but as he was on the point of showing himself and coming forth
to embrace and undeceive his wife he paused as he saw Leonela
returning, leading Lothario. Camilla when she saw him, drawing a
long line in front of her on the floor with the dagger, said to him,
"Lothario, pay attention to what I say to thee: if by any chance
thou darest to cross this line thou seest, or even approach it, the
instant I see thee attempt it that same instant will I pierce my bosom
with this dagger that I hold in my hand; and before thou answerest
me a word desire thee to listen to a few from me, and afterwards
thou shalt reply as may please thee. First, I desire thee to tell
me, Lothario, if thou knowest my husband Anselmo, and in what light
thou regardest him; and secondly I desire to know if thou knowest me
too. Answer me this, without embarrassment or reflecting deeply what
thou wilt answer, for they are no riddles I put to thee."

Lothario was not so dull but that from the first moment when Camilla
directed him to make Anselmo hide himself he understood what she
intended to do, and therefore he fell in with her idea so readily
and promptly that between them they made the imposture look more
true than truth; so he answered her thus: "I did not think, fair
Camilla, that thou wert calling me to ask questions so remote from the
object with which I come; but if it is to defer the promised reward
thou art doing so, thou mightst have put it off still longer, for
the longing for happiness gives the more distress the nearer comes the
hope of gaining it; but lest thou shouldst say that I do not answer
thy questions, I say that I know thy husband Anselmo, and that we have
known each other from our earliest years; I will not speak of what
thou too knowest, of our friendship, that I may not compel myself to
testify against the wrong that love, the mighty excuse for greater
errors, makes me inflict upon him. Thee I know and hold in the same
estimation as he does, for were it not so I had not for a lesser prize
acted in opposition to what I owe to my station and the holy laws of
true friendship, now broken and violated by me through that powerful
enemy, love."

"If thou dost confess that," returned Camilla, "mortal enemy of
all that rightly deserves to be loved, with what face dost thou dare
to come before one whom thou knowest to be the mirror wherein he is
reflected on whom thou shouldst look to see how unworthily thou him?
But, woe is me, I now comprehend what has made thee give so little
heed to what thou owest to thyself; it must have been some freedom
of mine, for I will not call it immodesty, as it did not proceed
from any deliberate intention, but from some heedlessness such as
women are guilty of through inadvertence when they think they have
no occasion for reserve. But tell me, traitor, when did I by word or
sign give a reply to thy prayers that could awaken in thee a shadow of
hope of attaining thy base wishes? When were not thy professions of
love sternly and scornfully rejected and rebuked? When were thy
frequent pledges and still more frequent gifts believed or accepted?
But as I am persuaded that no one can long persevere in the attempt to
win love unsustained by some hope, I am willing to attribute to myself
the blame of thy assurance, for no doubt some thoughtlessness of
mine has all this time fostered thy hopes; and therefore will I punish
myself and inflict upon myself the penalty thy guilt deserves. And
that thou mayest see that being so relentless to myself I cannot
possibly be otherwise to thee, I have summoned thee to be a witness of
the sacrifice I mean to offer to the injured honour of my honoured
husband, wronged by thee with all the assiduity thou wert capable
of, and by me too through want of caution in avoiding every
occasion, if I have given any, of encouraging and sanctioning thy base
designs. Once more I say the suspicion in my mind that some imprudence
of mine has engendered these lawless thoughts in thee, is what
causes me most distress and what I desire most to punish with my own
hands, for were any other instrument of punishment employed my error
might become perhaps more widely known; but before I do so, in my
death I mean to inflict death, and take with me one that will fully
satisfy my longing for the revenge I hope for and have; for I shall
see, wheresoever it may be that I go, the penalty awarded by
inflexible, unswerving justice on him who has placed me in a
position so desperate."

As she uttered these words, with incredible energy and swiftness she
flew upon Lothario with the naked dagger, so manifestly bent on
burying it in his breast that he was almost uncertain whether these
demonstrations were real or feigned, for he was obliged to have
recourse to all his skill and strength to prevent her from striking
him; and with such reality did she act this strange farce and
mystification that, to give it a colour of truth, she determined to
stain it with her own blood; for perceiving, or pretending, that she
could not wound Lothario, she said, "Fate, it seems, will not grant my
just desire complete satisfaction, but it will not be able to keep
me from satisfying it partially at least;" and making an effort to
free the hand with the dagger which Lothario held in his grasp, she
released it, and directing the point to a place where it could not
inflict a deep wound, she plunged it into her left side high up
close to the shoulder, and then allowed herself to fall to the
ground as if in a faint.

Leonela and Lothario stood amazed and astounded at the
catastrophe, and seeing Camilla stretched on the ground and bathed
in her blood they were still uncertain as to the true nature of the
act. Lothario, terrified and breathless, ran in haste to pluck out the
dagger; but when he saw how slight the wound was he was relieved of
his fears and once more admired the subtlety, coolness, and ready
wit of the fair Camilla; and the better to support the part he had
to play he began to utter profuse and doleful lamentations over her
body as if she were dead, invoking maledictions not only on himself
but also on him who had been the means of placing him in such a
position: and knowing that his friend Anselmo heard him he spoke in
such a way as to make a listener feel much more pity for him than
for Camilla, even though he supposed her dead. Leonela took her up
in her arms and laid her on the bed, entreating Lothario to go in
quest of some one to attend to her wound in secret, and at the same
time asking his advice and opinion as to what they should say to
Anselmo about his lady's wound if he should chance to return before it
was healed. He replied they might say what they liked, for he was
not in a state to give advice that would be of any use; all he could
tell her was to try and stanch the blood, as he was going where he
should never more be seen; and with every appearance of deep grief and
sorrow he left the house; but when he found himself alone, and where
there was nobody to see him, he crossed himself unceasingly, lost in
wonder at the adroitness of Camilla and the consistent acting of
Leonela. He reflected how convinced Anselmo would be that he had a
second Portia for a wife, and he looked forward anxiously to meeting
him in order to rejoice together over falsehood and truth the most
craftily veiled that could be imagined.

Leonela, as he told her, stanched her lady's blood, which was no
more than sufficed to support her deception; and washing the wound
with a little wine she bound it up to the best of her skill, talking
all the time she was tending her in a strain that, even if nothing
else had been said before, would have been enough to assure Anselmo
that he had in Camilla a model of purity. To Leonela's words Camilla
added her own, calling herself cowardly and wanting in spirit, since
she had not enough at the time she had most need of it to rid
herself of the life she so much loathed. She asked her attendant's
advice as to whether or not she ought to inform her beloved husband of
all that had happened, but the other bade her say nothing about it, as
she would lay upon him the obligation of taking vengeance on Lothario,
which he could not do but at great risk to himself; and it was the
duty of a true wife not to give her husband provocation to quarrel,
but, on the contrary, to remove it as far as possible from him.

Camilla replied that she believed she was right and that she would
follow her advice, but at any rate it would be well to consider how
she was to explain the wound to Anselmo, for he could not help
seeing it; to which Leonela answered that she did not know how to tell
a lie even in jest.

"How then can I know, my dear?" said Camilla, "for I should not dare
to forge or keep up a falsehood if my life depended on it. If we can
think of no escape from this difficulty, it will be better to tell him
the plain truth than that he should find us out in an untrue story."

"Be not uneasy, senora," said Leonela; "between this and to-morrow I
will think of what we must say to him, and perhaps the wound being
where it is it can be hidden from his sight, and Heaven will be
pleased to aid us in a purpose so good and honourable. Compose
yourself, senora, and endeavour to calm your excitement lest my lord
find you agitated; and leave the rest to my care and God's, who always
supports good intentions."

Anselmo had with the deepest attention listened to and seen played
out the tragedy of the death of his honour, which the performers acted
with such wonderfully effective truth that it seemed as if they had
become the realities of the parts they played. He longed for night and
an opportunity of escaping from the house to go and see his good
friend Lothario, and with him give vent to his joy over the precious
pearl he had gained in having established his wife's purity. Both
mistress and maid took care to give him time and opportunity to get
away, and taking advantage of it he made his escape, and at once
went in quest of Lothario, and it would be impossible to describe
how he embraced him when he found him, and the things he said to him
in the joy of his heart, and the praises he bestowed upon Camilla; all
which Lothario listened to without being able to show any pleasure,
for he could not forget how deceived his friend was, and how
dishonourably he had wronged him; and though Anselmo could see that
Lothario was not glad, still he imagined it was only because he had
left Camilla wounded and had been himself the cause of it; and so
among other things he told him not to be distressed about Camilla's
accident, for, as they had agreed to hide it from him, the wound was
evidently trifling; and that being so, he had no cause for fear, but
should henceforward be of good cheer and rejoice with him, seeing that
by his means and adroitness he found himself raised to the greatest
height of happiness that he could have ventured to hope for, and
desired no better pastime than making verses in praise of Camilla that
would preserve her name for all time to come. Lothario commended his
purpose, and promised on his own part to aid him in raising a monument
so glorious.

And so Anselmo was left the most charmingly hoodwinked man there
could be in the world. He himself, persuaded he was conducting the
instrument of his glory, led home by the hand him who had been the
utter destruction of his good name; whom Camilla received with averted
countenance, though with smiles in her heart. The deception was
carried on for some time, until at the end of a few months Fortune
turned her wheel and the guilt which had been until then so
skilfully concealed was published abroad, and Anselmo paid with his
life the penalty of his ill-advised curiosity.




Don Quixote by Migeul de Cervantes
Category:
Romance Literature - Spanish
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