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Miqeul de Cervantes >> Don Quixote (page 49)


To all this and much more that Anselmo said to Lothario topersuade him to come to his house as he had been in the habit ofdoing, Lothario replied with so much prudence, sense, and judgment,that Anselmo was satisfied of his friend's good intentions, and it wasagreed that on two days in the week, and on holidays, Lotharioshould come to dine with him; but though this arrangement was madebetween them Lothario resolved to observe it no further than heconsidered to be in accordance with the honour of his friend, whosegood name was more to him than his own. He said, and justly, that amarried man upon whom heaven had bestowed a beautiful wife shouldconsider as carefully what friends he brought to his house as whatfemale friends his wife associated with, for what cannot be done orarranged in the market-place, in church, at public festivals or atstations (opportunities that husbands cannot always deny their wives),may be easily managed in the house of the female friend or relative inwhom most confidence is reposed. Lothario said, too, that everymarried man should have some friend who would point out to him anynegligence he might be guilty of in his conduct, for it will sometimeshappen that owing to the deep affection the husband bears his wifeeither he does not caution her, or, not to vex her, refrains fromtelling her to do or not to do certain things, doing or avoiding whichmay be a matter of honour or reproach to him; and errors of thiskind he could easily correct if warned by a friend. But where issuch a friend to be found as Lothario would have, so judicious, soloyal, and so true?

Of a truth I know not; Lothario alone was such a one, for with theutmost care and vigilance he watched over the honour of his friend,and strove to diminish, cut down, and reduce the number of days forgoing to his house according to their agreement, lest the visits ofa young man, wealthy, high-born, and with the attractions he wasconscious of possessing, at the house of a woman so beautiful asCamilla, should be regarded with suspicion by the inquisitive andmalicious eyes of the idle public. For though his integrity andreputation might bridle slanderous tongues, still he was unwillingto hazard either his own good name or that of his friend; and for thisreason most of the days agreed upon he devoted to some otherbusiness which he pretended was unavoidable; so that a great portionof the day was taken up with complaints on one side and excuses on theother. It happened, however, that on one occasion when the two werestrolling together outside the city, Anselmo addressed the followingwords to Lothario.

"Thou mayest suppose, Lothario my friend, that I am unable to givesufficient thanks for the favours God has rendered me in making me theson of such parents as mine were, and bestowing upon me with noniggard hand what are called the gifts of nature as well as those offortune, and above all for what he has done in giving me thee for afriend and Camilla for a wife- two treasures that I value, if not ashighly as I ought, at least as highly as I am able. And yet, withall these good things, which are commonly all that men need toenable them to live happily, I am the most discontented anddissatisfied man in the whole world; for, I know not how long since, Ihave been harassed and oppressed by a desire so strange and sounusual, that I wonder at myself and blame and chide myself when Iam alone, and strive to stifle it and hide it from my own thoughts,and with no better success than if I were endeavouring deliberately topublish it to all the world; and as, in short, it must come out, Iwould confide it to thy safe keeping, feeling sure that by this means,and by thy readiness as a true friend to afford me relief, I shallsoon find myself freed from the distress it causes me, and that thycare will give me happiness in the same degree as my own folly hascaused me misery."

The words of Anselmo struck Lothario with astonishment, unable as hewas to conjecture the purport of such a lengthy preamble; and thoughbe strove to imagine what desire it could be that so troubled hisfriend, his conjectures were all far from the truth, and to relievethe anxiety which this perplexity was causing him, he told him hewas doing a flagrant injustice to their great friendship in seekingcircuitous methods of confiding to him his most hidden thoughts, forbe well knew he might reckon upon his counsel in diverting them, orhis help in carrying them into effect.

"That is the truth," replied Anselmo, "and relying upon that Iwill tell thee, friend Lothario, that the desire which harasses meis that of knowing whether my wife Camilla is as good and as perfectas I think her to be; and I cannot satisfy myself of the truth on thispoint except by testing her in such a way that the trial may prove thepurity of her virtue as the fire proves that of gold; because I ampersuaded, my friend, that a woman is virtuous only in proportion asshe is or is not tempted; and that she alone is strong who does notyield to the promises, gifts, tears, and importunities of earnestlovers; for what thanks does a woman deserve for being good if noone urges her to be bad, and what wonder is it that she is reservedand circumspect to whom no opportunity is given of going wrong and whoknows she has a husband that will take her life the first time hedetects her in an impropriety? I do not therefore hold her who isvirtuous through fear or want of opportunity in the same estimation asher who comes out of temptation and trial with a crown of victory; andso, for these reasons and many others that I could give thee tojustify and support the opinion I hold, I am desirous that my wifeCamilla should pass this crisis, and be refined and tested by the fireof finding herself wooed and by one worthy to set his affectionsupon her; and if she comes out, as I know she will, victorious fromthis struggle, I shall look upon my good fortune as unequalled, Ishall be able to say that the cup of my desire is full, and that thevirtuous woman of whom the sage says 'Who shall find her?' hasfallen to my lot. And if the result be the contrary of what Iexpect, in the satisfaction of knowing that I have been right in myopinion, I shall bear without complaint the pain which my so dearlybought experience will naturally cause me. And, as nothing of all thouwilt urge in opposition to my wish will avail to keep me from carryingit into effect, it is my desire, friend Lothario, that thou shouldstconsent to become the instrument for effecting this purpose that Iam bent upon, for I will afford thee opportunities to that end, andnothing shall be wanting that I may think necessary for the pursuit ofa virtuous, honourable, modest and high-minded woman. And amongother reasons, I am induced to entrust this arduous task to thee bythe consideration that if Camilla be conquered by thee the conquestwill not be pushed to extremes, but only far enough to account thataccomplished which from a sense of honour will be left undone; thusI shall not be wronged in anything more than intention, and my wrongwill remain buried in the integrity of thy silence, which I knowwell will be as lasting as that of death in what concerns me. If,therefore, thou wouldst have me enjoy what can be called life, thouwilt at once engage in this love struggle, not lukewarmly norslothfully, but with the energy and zeal that my desire demands, andwith the loyalty our friendship assures me of."

Such were the words Anselmo addressed to Lothario, who listened tothem with such attention that, except to say what has been alreadymentioned, he did not open his lips until the other had finished. Thenperceiving that he had no more to say, after regarding him for awhile,as one would regard something never before seen that excited wonderand amazement, he said to him, "I cannot persuade myself, Anselmo myfriend, that what thou hast said to me is not in jest; if I thoughtthat thou wert speaking seriously I would not have allowed thee togo so far; so as to put a stop to thy long harangue by not listeningto thee I verily suspect that either thou dost not know me, or I donot know thee; but no, I know well thou art Anselmo, and thouknowest that I am Lothario; the misfortune is, it seems to me, thatthou art not the Anselmo thou wert, and must have thought that I amnot the Lothario I should be; for the things that thou hast said to meare not those of that Anselmo who was my friend, nor are those thatthou demandest of me what should be asked of the Lothario thouknowest. True friends will prove their friends and make use of them,as a poet has said, usque ad aras; whereby he meant that they will notmake use of their friendship in things that are contrary to God'swill. If this, then, was a heathen's feeling about friendship, howmuch more should it be a Christian's, who knows that the divine mustnot be forfeited for the sake of any human friendship? And if a friendshould go so far as to put aside his duty to Heaven to fulfil his dutyto his friend, it should not be in matters that are trifling or oflittle moment, but in such as affect the friend's life and honour. Nowtell me, Anselmo, in which of these two art thou imperilled, that Ishould hazard myself to gratify thee, and do a thing so detestableas that thou seekest of me? Neither forsooth; on the contrary, thoudost ask of me, so far as I understand, to strive and labour to robthee of honour and life, and to rob myself of them at the same time;for if I take away thy honour it is plain I take away thy life, as aman without honour is worse than dead; and being the instrument, asthou wilt have it so, of so much wrong to thee, shall not I, too, beleft without honour, and consequently without life? Listen to me,Anselmo my friend, and be not impatient to answer me until I have saidwhat occurs to me touching the object of thy desire, for there will betime enough left for thee to reply and for me to hear."

"Be it so," said Anselmo, "say what thou wilt."

Lothario then went on to say, "It seems to me, Anselmo, that thineis just now the temper of mind which is always that of the Moors,who can never be brought to see the error of their creed by quotationsfrom the Holy Scriptures, or by reasons which depend upon theexamination of the understanding or are founded upon the articles offaith, but must have examples that are palpable, easy, intelligible,capable of proof, not admitting of doubt, with mathematicaldemonstrations that cannot be denied, like, 'If equals be taken fromequals, the remainders are equal:' and if they do not understandthis in words, and indeed they do not, it has to be shown to them withthe hands, and put before their eyes, and even with all this no onesucceeds in convincing them of the truth of our holy religion. Thissame mode of proceeding I shall have to adopt with thee, for thedesire which has sprung up in thee is so absurd and remote fromeverything that has a semblance of reason, that I feel it would be awaste of time to employ it in reasoning with thy simplicity, for atpresent I will call it by no other name; and I am even tempted toleave thee in thy folly as a punishment for thy pernicious desire; butthe friendship I bear thee, which will not allow me to desert theein such manifest danger of destruction, keeps me from dealing soharshly by thee. And that thou mayest clearly see this, say,Anselmo, hast thou not told me that I must force my suit upon a modestwoman, decoy one that is virtuous, make overtures to one that ispure-minded, pay court to one that is prudent? Yes, thou hast toldme so. Then, if thou knowest that thou hast a wife, modest,virtuous, pure-minded and prudent, what is it that thou seekest? Andif thou believest that she will come forth victorious from all myattacks- as doubtless she would- what higher titles than those shepossesses now dost thou think thou canst upon her then, or in whatwill she be better then than she is now? Either thou dost not hold herto be what thou sayest, or thou knowest not what thou dost demand.If thou dost not hold her to be what thou why dost thou seek toprove her instead of treating her as guilty in the way that may seembest to thee? but if she be as virtuous as thou believest, it is anuncalled-for proceeding to make trial of truth itself, for, aftertrial, it will but be in the same estimation as before. Thus, then, itis conclusive that to attempt things from which harm rather thanadvantage may come to us is the part of unreasoning and recklessminds, more especially when they are things which we are not forced orcompelled to attempt, and which show from afar that it is plainlymadness to attempt them.

"Difficulties are attempted either for the sake of God or for thesake of the world, or for both; those undertaken for God's sake arethose which the saints undertake when they attempt to live the livesof angels in human bodies; those undertaken for the sake of theworld are those of the men who traverse such a vast expanse ofwater, such a variety of climates, so many strange countries, toacquire what are called the blessings of fortune; and those undertakenfor the sake of God and the world together are those of bravesoldiers, who no sooner do they see in the enemy's wall a breach aswide as a cannon ball could make, than, casting aside all fear,without hesitating, or heeding the manifest peril that threatens them,borne onward by the desire of defending their faith, their country,and their king, they fling themselves dauntlessly into the midst ofthe thousand opposing deaths that await them. Such are the things thatmen are wont to attempt, and there is honour, glory, gain, inattempting them, however full of difficulty and peril they may be; butthat which thou sayest it is thy wish to attempt and carry out willnot win thee the glory of God nor the blessings of fortune nor fameamong men; for even if the issue he as thou wouldst have it, thou wiltbe no happier, richer, or more honoured than thou art this moment; andif it be otherwise thou wilt be reduced to misery greater than canbe imagined, for then it will avail thee nothing to reflect that noone is aware of the misfortune that has befallen thee; it will sufficeto torture and crush thee that thou knowest it thyself. And inconfirmation of the truth of what I say, let me repeat to thee astanza made by the famous poet Luigi Tansillo at the end of thefirst part of his 'Tears of Saint Peter,' which says thus:

The anguish and the shame but greater grewIn Peter's heart as morning slowly came;No eye was there to see him, well he knew,Yet he himself was to himself a shame;Exposed to all men's gaze, or screened from view,A noble heart will feel the pang the same;A prey to shame the sinning soul will be,Though none but heaven and earth its shame can see.

Title: Don Quixote
Author: Miqeul de Cervantes
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