Miqeul de Cervantes >> Don Quixote (page 51)

Thus, then, several days went by, and Lothario, without uttering aword to Camilla, reported to Anselmo that he had talked with her andthat he had never been able to draw from her the slightestindication of consent to anything dishonourable, nor even a sign orshadow of hope; on the contrary, he said she would inform herhusband of it.

"So far well," said Anselmo; "Camilla has thus far resisted words;we must now see how she will resist deeds. I will give you to-morrowtwo thousand crowns in gold for you to offer or even present, and asmany more to buy jewels to lure her, for women are fond of beingbecomingly attired and going gaily dressed, and all the more so ifthey are beautiful, however chaste they may be; and if she resiststhis temptation, I will rest satisfied and will give you no moretrouble."

Lothario replied that now he had begun he would carry on theundertaking to the end, though he perceived he was to come out of itwearied and vanquished. The next day he received the four thousandcrowns, and with them four thousand perplexities, for he knew not whatto say by way of a new falsehood; but in the end he made up his mindto tell him that Camilla stood as firm against gifts and promises asagainst words, and that there was no use in taking any furthertrouble, for the time was all spent to no purpose.

But chance, directing things in a different manner, so ordered itthat Anselmo, having left Lothario and Camilla alone as on otheroccasions, shut himself into a chamber and posted himself to watch andlisten through the keyhole to what passed between them, andperceived that for more than half an hour Lothario did not utter aword to Camilla, nor would utter a word though he were to be there foran age; and he came to the conclusion that what his friend had toldhim about the replies of Camilla was all invention and falsehood,and to ascertain if it were so, he came out, and calling Lotharioaside asked him what news he had and in what humour Camilla was.Lothario replied that he was not disposed to go on with thebusiness, for she had answered him so angrily and harshly that hehad no heart to say anything more to her.

"Ah, Lothario, Lothario," said Anselmo, "how ill dost thou meetthy obligations to me, and the great confidence I repose in thee! Ihave been just now watching through this keyhole, and I have seen thatthou has not said a word to Camilla, whence I conclude that on theformer occasions thou hast not spoken to her either, and if this beso, as no doubt it is, why dost thou deceive me, or whereforeseekest thou by craft to deprive me of the means I might find ofattaining my desire?"

Anselmo said no more, but he had said enough to cover Lothariowith shame and confusion, and he, feeling as it were his honourtouched by having been detected in a lie, swore to Anselmo that hewould from that moment devote himself to satisfying him without anydeception, as he would see if he had the curiosity to watch; though heneed not take the trouble, for the pains he would take to satisfyhim would remove all suspicions from his mind. Anselmo believed him,and to afford him an opportunity more free and less liable tosurprise, he resolved to absent himself from his house for eight days,betaking himself to that of a friend of his who lived in a village notfar from the city; and, the better to account for his departure toCamilla, he so arranged it that the friend should send him a verypressing invitation.

Unhappy, shortsighted Anselmo, what art thou doing, what art thouplotting, what art thou devising? Bethink thee thou art workingagainst thyself, plotting thine own dishonour, devising thine ownruin. Thy wife Camilla is virtuous, thou dost possess her in peace andquietness, no one assails thy happiness, her thoughts wander notbeyond the walls of thy house, thou art her heaven on earth, theobject of her wishes, the fulfilment of her desires, the measurewherewith she measures her will, making it conform in all things tothine and Heaven's. If, then, the mine of her honour, beauty,virtue, and modesty yields thee without labour all the wealth itcontains and thou canst wish for, why wilt thou dig the earth insearch of fresh veins, of new unknown treasure, risking the collapseof all, since it but rests on the feeble props of her weak nature?Bethink thee that from him who seeks impossibilities that which ispossible may with justice be withheld, as was better expressed by apoet who said:'Tis mine to seek for life in death,Health in disease seek I,I seek in prison freedom's breath,In traitors loyalty.So Fate that ever scorns to grantOr grace or boon to me,Since what can never be I want,Denies me what might be.

The next day Anselmo took his departure for the village, leavinginstructions with Camilla that during his absence Lothario wouldcome to look after his house and to dine with her, and that she was totreat him as she would himself. Camilla was distressed, as adiscreet and right-minded woman would be, at the orders her husbandleft her, and bade him remember that it was not becoming that anyoneshould occupy his seat at the table during his absence, and if heacted thus from not feeling confidence that she would be able tomanage his house, let him try her this time, and he would find byexperience that she was equal to greater responsibilities. Anselmoreplied that it was his pleasure to have it so, and that she hadonly to submit and obey. Camilla said she would do so, thoughagainst her will.

Anselmo went, and the next day Lothario came to his house, wherehe was received by Camilla with a friendly and modest welcome; but shenever suffered Lothario to see her alone, for she was alwaysattended by her men and women servants, especially by a handmaid ofhers, Leonela by name, to whom she was much attached (for they hadbeen brought up together from childhood in her father's house), andwhom she had kept with her after her marriage with Anselmo. Thefirst three days Lothario did not speak to her, though he might havedone so when they removed the cloth and the servants retired to dinehastily; for such were Camilla's orders; nay more, Leonela haddirections to dine earlier than Camilla and never to leave her side.She, however, having her thoughts fixed upon other things more toher taste, and wanting that time and opportunity for her ownpleasures, did not always obey her mistress's commands, but on thecontrary left them alone, as if they had ordered her to do so; but themodest bearing of Camilla, the calmness of her countenance, thecomposure of her aspect were enough to bridle the tongue ofLothario. But the influence which the many virtues of Camillaexerted in imposing silence on Lothario's tongue proved mischievousfor both of them, for if his tongue was silent his thoughts were busy,and could dwell at leisure upon the perfections of Camilla'sgoodness and beauty one by one, charms enough to warm with love amarble statue, not to say a heart of flesh. Lothario gazed upon herwhen he might have been speaking to her, and thought how worthy ofbeing loved she was; and thus reflection began little by little toassail his allegiance to Anselmo, and a thousand times he thought ofwithdrawing from the city and going where Anselmo should never see himnor he see Camilla. But already the delight he found in gazing onher interposed and held him fast. He put a constraint upon himself,and struggled to repel and repress the pleasure he found incontemplating Camilla; when alone he blamed himself for hisweakness, called himself a bad friend, nay a bad Christian; then heargued the matter and compared himself with Anselmo; always comingto the conclusion that the folly and rashness of Anselmo had beenworse than his faithlessness, and that if he could excuse hisintentions as easily before God as with man, he had no reason tofear any punishment for his offence.

In short the beauty and goodness of Camilla, joined with theopportunity which the blind husband had placed in his hands, overthrewthe loyalty of Lothario; and giving heed to nothing save the objecttowards which his inclinations led him, after Anselmo had been threedays absent, during which he had been carrying on a continual strugglewith his passion, he began to make love to Camilla with so muchvehemence and warmth of language that she was overwhelmed withamazement, and could only rise from her place and retire to her roomwithout answering him a word. But the hope which always springs upwith love was not weakened in Lothario by this repelling demeanour; onthe contrary his passion for Camilla increased, and she discovering inhim what she had never expected, knew not what to do; andconsidering it neither safe nor right to give him the chance oropportunity of speaking to her again, she resolved to send, as she didthat very night, one of her servants with a letter to Anselmo, inwhich she addressed the following words to him.



"It is commonly said that an army looks ill without its generaland a castle without its castellan, and I say that a young marriedwoman looks still worse without her husband unless there are very goodreasons for it. I find myself so ill at ease without you, and soincapable of enduring this separation, that unless you returnquickly I shall have to go for relief to my parents' house, even ifI leave yours without a protector; for the one you left me, ifindeed he deserved that title, has, I think, more regard to his ownpleasure than to what concerns you: as you are possessed ofdiscernment I need say no more to you, nor indeed is it fitting Ishould say more."

Anselmo received this letter, and from it he gathered thatLothario had already begun his task and that Camilla must have repliedto him as he would have wished; and delighted beyond measure at suchintelligence he sent word to her not to leave his house on anyaccount, as he would very shortly return. Camilla was astonished atAnselmo'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 herparents'; for in remaining her virtue was imperilled, and in going shewas opposing her husband's commands. Finally she decided upon what wasthe worse course for her, to remain, resolving not to fly from thepresence of Lothario, that she might not give food for gossip to herservants; and she now began to regret having written as she had to herhusband, fearing he might imagine that Lothario had perceived in hersome lightness which had impelled him to lay aside the respect he owedher; but confident of her rectitude she put her trust in God and inher own virtuous intentions, with which she hoped to resist in silenceall the solicitations of Lothario, without saying anything to herhusband so as not to involve him in any quarrel or trouble; and sheeven began to consider how to excuse Lothario to Anselmo when heshould ask her what it was that induced her to write that letter. Withthese resolutions, more honourable than judicious or effectual, sheremained the next day listening to Lothario, who pressed his suit sostrenuously that Camilla's firmness began to waver, and her virtue hadenough to do to come to the rescue of her eyes and keep them fromshowing signs of a certain tender compassion which the tears andappeals of Lothario had awakened in her bosom. Lothario observed allthis, and it inflamed him all the more. In short he felt that whileAnselmo's absence afforded time and opportunity he must press thesiege of the fortress, and so he assailed her self-esteem with praisesof her beauty, for there is nothing that more quickly reduces andlevels the castle towers of fair women's vanity than vanity itselfupon the tongue of flattery. In fact with the utmost assiduity heundermined the rock of her purity with such engines that had Camillabeen of brass she must have fallen. He wept, he entreated, hepromised, he flattered, he importuned, he pretended with so muchfeeling and apparent sincerity, that he overthrew the virtuousresolves of Camilla and won the triumph he least expected and mostlonged for. Camilla yielded, Camilla fell; but what wonder if thefriendship of Lothario could not stand firm? A clear proof to usthat 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. Leonelaalone knew of her mistress's weakness, for the two false friends andnew lovers were unable to conceal it. Lothario did not care to tellCamilla the object Anselmo had in view, nor that he had afforded himthe opportunity of attaining such a result, lest she should undervaluehis love and think that it was by chance and without intending itand not of his own accord that he had made love to her.

A few days later Anselmo returned to his house and did notperceive what it had lost, that which he so lightly treated and sohighly prized. He went at once to see Lothario, and found him at home;they embraced each other, and Anselmo asked for the tidings of hislife 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 patternand crown of all good wives. The words that I have addressed to herwere borne away on the wind, my promises have been despised, mypresents have been refused, such feigned tears as I shed have beenturned into open ridicule. In short, as Camilla is the essence ofall beauty, so is she the treasure-house where purity dwells, andgentleness and modesty abide with all the virtues that can conferpraise, honour, and happiness upon a woman. Take back thy money, myfriend; here it is, and I have had no need to touch it, for thechastity of Camilla yields not to things so base as gifts or promises.Be content, Anselmo, and refrain from making further proof; and asthou hast passed dryshod through the sea of those doubts andsuspicions that are and may be entertained of women, seek not toplunge again into the deep ocean of new embarrassments, or withanother pilot make trial of the goodness and strength of the bark thatHeaven has granted thee for thy passage across the sea of thisworld; but reckon thyself now safe in port, moor thyself with theanchor of sound reflection, and rest in peace until thou art calledupon to pay that debt which no nobility on earth can escape paying."

Anselmo was completely satisfied by the words of Lothario, andbelieved 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; thoughthenceforward he need not make use of the same earnest endeavours asbefore; all he wished him to do was to write some verses to her,praising her under the name of Chloris, for he himself would giveher to understand that he was in love with a lady to whom he had giventhat name to enable him to sing her praises with the decorum due toher modesty; and if Lothario were unwilling to take the trouble ofwriting the verses he would compose them himself.

Title: Don Quixote
Author: Miqeul de Cervantes
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