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Miqeul de Cervantes >> Don Quixote (page 50)


Thus by keeping it secret thou wilt not escape thy sorrow, butrather thou wilt shed tears unceasingly, if not tears of the eyes,tears of blood from the heart, like those shed by that simple doctorour poet tells us of, that tried the test of the cup, which the wiseRinaldo, better advised, refused to do; for though this may be apoetic fiction it contains a moral lesson worthy of attention andstudy and imitation. Moreover by what I am about to say to thee thouwilt be led to see the great error thou wouldst commit.

"Tell me, Anselmo, if Heaven or good fortune had made thee masterand lawful owner of a diamond of the finest quality, with theexcellence and purity of which all the lapidaries that had seen it hadbeen satisfied, saying with one voice and common consent that inpurity, quality, and fineness, it was all that a stone of the kindcould possibly be, thou thyself too being of the same belief, asknowing nothing to the contrary, would it be reasonable in thee todesire to take that diamond and place it between an anvil and ahammer, and by mere force of blows and strength of arm try if itwere as hard and as fine as they said? And if thou didst, and if thestone should resist so silly a test, that would add nothing to itsvalue or reputation; and if it were broken, as it might be, wouldnot all be lost? Undoubtedly it would, leaving its owner to be ratedas a fool in the opinion of all. Consider, then, Anselmo my friend,that Camilla is a diamond of the finest quality as well in thyestimation as in that of others, and that it is contrary to reasonto expose her to the risk of being broken; for if she remains intactshe cannot rise to a higher value than she now possesses; and if shegive way and be unable to resist, bethink thee now how thou wilt bedeprived of her, and with what good reason thou wilt complain ofthyself for having been the cause of her ruin and thine own.Remember there is no jewel in the world so precious as a chaste andvirtuous woman, and that the whole honour of women consists inreputation; and since thy wife's is of that high excellence thatthou knowest, wherefore shouldst thou seek to call that truth inquestion? Remember, my friend, that woman is an imperfect animal,and that impediments are not to be placed in her way to make hertrip and fall, but that they should be removed, and her path leftclear of all obstacles, so that without hindrance she may run hercourse freely to attain the desired perfection, which consists inbeing virtuous. Naturalists tell us that the ermine is a little animalwhich has a fur of purest white, and that when the hunters wish totake it, they make use of this artifice. Having ascertained the placeswhich it frequents and passes, they stop the way to them with mud, andthen rousing it, drive it towards the spot, and as soon as theermine comes to the mud it halts, and allows itself to be takencaptive rather than pass through the mire, and spoil and sully itswhiteness, which it values more than life and liberty. The virtuousand chaste woman is an ermine, and whiter and purer than snow is thevirtue of modesty; and he who wishes her not to lose it, but to keepand preserve it, must adopt a course different from that employed withthe ermine; he must not put before her the mire of the gifts andattentions of persevering lovers, because perhaps- and even withouta perhaps- she may not have sufficient virtue and natural strengthin herself to pass through and tread under foot these impediments;they must be removed, and the brightness of virtue and the beauty of afair fame must be put before her. A virtuous woman, too, is like amirror, of clear shining crystal, liable to be tarnished and dimmed byevery breath that touches it. She must be treated as relics are;adored, not touched. She must be protected and prized as oneprotects and prizes a fair garden full of roses and flowers, the ownerof which allows no one to trespass or pluck a blossom; enough forothers that from afar and through the iron grating they may enjoyits fragrance and its beauty. Finally let me repeat to thee someverses that come to my mind; I heard them in a modern comedy, and itseems to me they bear upon the point we are discussing. A prudentold man was giving advice to another, the father of a young girl, tolock her up, watch over her and keep her in seclusion, and among otherarguments he used these:

Woman is a thing of glass;But her brittleness 'tis bestNot too curiously to test:Who knows what may come to pass?

Breaking is an easy matter,And it's folly to exposeWhat you cannot mend to blows;What you can't make whole to shatter.

This, then, all may hold as true,And the reason's plain to see;For if Danaes there be,There are golden showers too.

"All that I have said to thee so far, Anselmo, has had referenceto what concerns thee; now it is right that I should say somethingof what regards myself; and if I be prolix, pardon me, for thelabyrinth into which thou hast entered and from which thou wouldsthave me extricate thee makes it necessary.

"Thou dost reckon me thy friend, and thou wouldst rob me ofhonour, a thing wholly inconsistent with friendship; and not only dostthou aim at this, but thou wouldst have me rob thee of it also. Thatthou wouldst rob me of it is clear, for when Camilla sees that I paycourt to her as thou requirest, she will certainly regard me as aman without honour or right feeling, since I attempt and do a thing somuch opposed to what I owe to my own position and thy friendship. Thatthou wouldst have me rob thee of it is beyond a doubt, for Camilla,seeing that I press my suit upon her, will suppose that I haveperceived in her something light that has encouraged me to makeknown to her my base desire; and if she holds herself dishonoured, herdishonour touches thee as belonging to her; and hence arises what socommonly takes place, that the husband of the adulterous woman, thoughhe may not be aware of or have given any cause for his wife'sfailure in her duty, or (being careless or negligent) have had it inhis power to prevent his dishonour, nevertheless is stigmatised by avile and reproachful name, and in a manner regarded with eyes ofcontempt instead of pity by all who know of his wife's guilt, thoughthey see that he is unfortunate not by his own fault, but by thelust of a vicious consort. But I will tell thee why with good reasondishonour attaches to the husband of the unchaste wife, though he knownot that she is so, nor be to blame, nor have done anything, orgiven any provocation to make her so; and be not weary withlistening to me, for it will be for thy good.

"When God created our first parent in the earthly paradise, the HolyScripture says that he infused sleep into Adam and while he slept tooka rib from his left side of which he formed our mother Eve, and whenAdam awoke and beheld her he said, 'This is flesh of my flesh, andbone of my bone.' And God said 'For this shall a man leave hisfather and his mother, and they shall be two in one flesh; and thenwas instituted the divine sacrament of marriage, with such ties thatdeath alone can loose them. And such is the force and virtue of thismiraculous sacrament that it makes two different persons one and thesame flesh; and even more than this when the virtuous are married; forthough they have two souls they have but one will. And hence itfollows that as the flesh of the wife is one and the same with that ofher husband the stains that may come upon it, or the injuries itincurs fall upon the husband's flesh, though he, as has been said, mayhave given no cause for them; for as the pain of the foot or anymember of the body is felt by the whole body, because all is oneflesh, as the head feels the hurt to the ankle without having causedit, so the husband, being one with her, shares the dishonour of thewife; and as all worldly honour or dishonour comes of flesh and blood,and the erring wife's is of that kind, the husband must needs bear hispart of it and be held dishonoured without knowing it. See, then,Anselmo, the peril thou art encountering in seeking to disturb thepeace of thy virtuous consort; see for what an empty and ill-advisedcuriosity thou wouldst rouse up passions that now repose in quiet inthe breast of thy chaste wife; reflect that what thou art stakingall to win is little, and what thou wilt lose so much that I leaveit undescribed, not having the words to express it. But if all Ihave said be not enough to turn thee from thy vile purpose, thoumust seek some other instrument for thy dishonour and misfortune;for such I will not consent to be, though I lose thy friendship, thegreatest loss that I can conceive."

Having said this, the wise and virtuous Lothario was silent, andAnselmo, troubled in mind and deep in thought, was unable for awhile to utter a word in reply; but at length he said, "I havelistened, Lothario my friend, attentively, as thou hast seen, towhat thou hast chosen to say to me, and in thy arguments, examples,and comparisons I have seen that high intelligence thou dostpossess, and the perfection of true friendship thou hast reached;and likewise I see and confess that if I am not guided by thy opinion,but follow my own, I am flying from the good and pursuing the evil.This being so, thou must remember that I am now labouring under thatinfirmity which women sometimes suffer from, when the craving seizesthem to eat clay, plaster, charcoal, and things even worse, disgustingto look at, much more to eat; so that it will be necessary to haverecourse to some artifice to cure me; and this can be easilyeffected if only thou wilt make a beginning, even though it be in alukewarm and make-believe fashion, to pay court to Camilla, who willnot be so yielding that her virtue will give way at the firstattack: with this mere attempt I shall rest satisfied, and thou wilthave done what our friendship binds thee to do, not only in givingme life, but in persuading me not to discard my honour. And thisthou art bound to do for one reason alone, that, being, as I am,resolved to apply this test, it is not for thee to permit me to revealmy weakness to another, and so imperil that honour thou art strivingto keep me from losing; and if thine may not stand as high as it oughtin the estimation of Camilla while thou art paying court to her,that is of little or no importance, because ere long, on finding inher that constancy which we expect, thou canst tell her the plaintruth as regards our stratagem, and so regain thy place in her esteem;and as thou art venturing so little, and by the venture canst affordme so much satisfaction, refuse not to undertake it, even if furtherdifficulties present themselves to thee; for, as I have said, ifthou wilt only make a beginning I will acknowledge the issue decided."

Lothario seeing the fixed determination of Anselmo, and notknowing what further examples to offer or arguments to urge in orderto dissuade him from it, and perceiving that he threatened toconfide his pernicious scheme to some one else, to avoid a greaterevil resolved to gratify him and do what he asked, intending to managethe business so as to satisfy Anselmo without corrupting the mind ofCamilla; so in reply he told him not to communicate his purpose to anyother, for he would undertake the task himself, and would begin itas soon as he pleased. Anselmo embraced him warmly and affectionately,and thanked him for his offer as if he had bestowed some greatfavour upon him; and it was agreed between them to set about it thenext day, Anselmo affording opportunity and time to Lothario toconverse alone with Camilla, and furnishing him with money andjewels to offer and present to her. He suggested, too, that heshould treat her to music, and write verses in her praise, and if hewas unwilling to take the trouble of composing them, he offered todo it himself. Lothario agreed to all with an intention very differentfrom what Anselmo supposed, and with this understanding theyreturned to Anselmo's house, where they found Camilla awaiting herhusband anxiously and uneasily, for he was later than usual inreturning that day. Lothario repaired to his own house, and Anselmoremained in his, as well satisfied as Lothario was troubled in mind;for he could see no satisfactory way out of this ill-advised business.That night, however, he thought of a plan by which he might deceiveAnselmo without any injury to Camilla. The next day he went to dinewith his friend, and was welcomed by Camilla, who received and treatedhim with great cordiality, knowing the affection her husband feltfor him. When dinner was over and the cloth removed, Anselmo toldLothario to stay there with Camilla while he attended to some pressingbusiness, as he would return in an hour and a half. Camilla begged himnot to go, and Lothario offered to accompany him, but nothing couldpersuade Anselmo, who on the contrary pressed Lothario to remainwaiting for him as he had a matter of great importance to discuss withhim. At the same time he bade Camilla not to leave Lothario aloneuntil he came back. In short he contrived to put so good a face on thereason, or the folly, of his absence that no one could havesuspected it was a pretence.

Anselmo took his departure, and Camilla and Lothario were left aloneat the table, for the rest of the household had gone to dinner.Lothario saw himself in the lists according to his friend's wish,and facing an enemy that could by her beauty alone vanquish a squadronof armed knights; judge whether he had good reason to fear; but whathe did was to lean his elbow on the arm of the chair, and his cheekupon his hand, and, asking Camilla's pardon for his ill manners, hesaid he wished to take a little sleep until Anselmo returned.Camilla in reply said he could repose more at his ease in thereception-room than in his chair, and begged of him to go in and sleepthere; but Lothario declined, and there he remained asleep until thereturn of Anselmo, who finding Camilla in her own room, and Lotharioasleep, imagined that he had stayed away so long as to have affordedthem time enough for conversation and even for sleep, and was allimpatience until Lothario should wake up, that he might go out withhim and question him as to his success. Everything fell out as hewished; Lothario awoke, and the two at once left the house, andAnselmo asked what he was anxious to know, and Lothario in answer toldhim that he had not thought it advisable to declare himself entirelythe first time, and therefore had only extolled the charms of Camilla,telling her that all the city spoke of nothing else but her beauty andwit, for this seemed to him an excellent way of beginning to gainher good-will and render her disposed to listen to him with pleasurethe next time, thus availing himself of the device the devil hasrecourse to when he would deceive one who is on the watch; for hebeing the angel of darkness transforms himself into an angel of light,and, under cover of a fair seeming, discloses himself at length, andeffects his purpose if at the beginning his wiles are notdiscovered. All this gave great satisfaction to Anselmo, and he saidhe would afford the same opportunity every day, but without leavingthe house, for he would find things to do at home so that Camillashould not detect the plot.

Title: Don Quixote
Author: Miqeul de Cervantes
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