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Miqeul de Cervantes >> Don Quixote (page 52)


"That will not be necessary," said Lothario, "for the muses arenot such enemies of mine but that they visit me now and then in thecourse of the year. Do thou tell Camilla what thou hast proposed abouta pretended amour of mine; as for the verses will make them, and ifnot as good as the subject deserves, they shall be at least the best Ican produce." An agreement to this effect was made between thefriends, the ill-advised one and the treacherous, and Anselmoreturning to his house asked Camilla the question she already wonderedhe had not asked before- what it was that had caused her to writethe letter she had sent him. Camilla replied that it had seemed to herthat Lothario looked at her somewhat more freely than when he had beenat home; but that now she was undeceived and believed it to havebeen only her own imagination, for Lothario now avoided seeing her, orbeing alone with her. Anselmo told her she might be quite easy onthe score of that suspicion, for he knew that Lothario was in lovewith a damsel of rank in the city whom he celebrated under the name ofChloris, and that even if he were not, his fidelity and their greatfriendship left no room for fear. Had not Camilla, however, beeninformed beforehand by Lothario that this love for Chloris was apretence, and that he himself had told Anselmo of it in order to beable sometimes to give utterance to the praises of Camilla herself, nodoubt she would have fallen into the despairing toils of jealousy; butbeing forewarned she received the startling news without uneasiness.

The next day as the three were at table Anselmo asked Lothario torecite something of what he had composed for his mistress Chloris; foras 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 withcruelty, he casts no imputation upon her fair name; at any rate, all Ican say is that yesterday I made a sonnet on the ingratitude of thisChloris, which goes thus:

SONNET

At midnight, in the silence, when the eyesOf happier mortals balmy slumbers close,The weary tale of my unnumbered woesTo Chloris and to Heaven is wont to rise.And when the light of day returning dyesThe portals of the east with tints of rose,With undiminished force my sorrow flowsIn 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 seemsTo me that neither Heaven nor Chloris hears."

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

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

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

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

SONNET

I know that I am doomed; death is to meAs certain as that thou, ungrateful fair,Dead at thy feet shouldst see me lying, ereMy heart repented of its love for thee.If buried in oblivion I should be,Bereft of life, fame, favour, even thereIt would be found that I thy image bearDeep graven in my breast for all to see.This like some holy relic do I prizeTo 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 hewas binding himself and making his dishonour secure; for when Lothariowas doing most to dishonour him he told him he was most honoured;and thus each step that Camilla descended towards the depths of herabasement, she mounted, in his opinion, towards the summit of virtueand fair fame.

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

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

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

"That saying does not hold good in your case," replied Leonela, "forlove, as I have heard say, sometimes flies and sometimes walks; withthis one it runs, with that it moves slowly; some it cools, othersit burns; some it wounds, others it slays; it begins the course of itsdesires, and at the same moment completes and ends it; in themorning it will lay siege to a fortress and by night will have takenit, for there is no power that can resist it; so what are you in dreadof, what do you fear, when the same must have befallen Lothario,love having chosen the absence of my lord as the instrument forsubduing you? and it was absolutely necessary to complete then whatlove had resolved upon, without affording the time to let Anselmoreturn and by his presence compel the work to be left unfinished;for love has no better agent for carrying out his designs thanopportunity; and of opportunity he avails himself in all his feats,especially at the outset. All this I know well myself, more byexperience than by hearsay, and some day, senora, I will enlighten youon the subject, for I am of your flesh and blood too. Moreover, ladyCamilla, you did not surrender yourself or yield so quickly but thatfirst you saw Lothario's whole soul in his eyes, in his sighs, inhis words, his promises and his gifts, and by it and his goodqualities perceived how worthy he was of your love. This, then,being the case, let not these scrupulous and prudish ideas troubleyour imagination, but be assured that Lothario prizes you as you dohim, and rest content and satisfied that as you are caught in thenoose of love it is one of worth and merit that has taken you, and onethat has not only the four S's that they say true lovers ought tohave, but a complete alphabet; only listen to me and you will seehow 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, andthe S's according to the saying, and then Tender, Veracious: X doesnot 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 moreexperienced in love affairs than she said, which she admitted,confessing to Camilla that she had love passages with a young man ofgood birth of the same city. Camilla was uneasy at this, dreading lestit might prove the means of endangering her honour, and askedwhether her intrigue had gone beyond words, and she with littleshame and much effrontery said it had; for certain it is thatladies' imprudences make servants shameless, who, when they seetheir mistresses make a false step, think nothing of going astraythemselves, or of its being known. All that Camilla could do was toentreat Leonela to say nothing about her doings to him whom she calledher lover, and to conduct her own affairs secretly lest they shouldcome to the knowledge of Anselmo or of Lothario. Leonela said shewould, but kept her word in such a way that she confirmed Camilla'sapprehension of losing her reputation through her means; for thisabandoned and bold Leonela, as soon as she perceived that hermistress's demeanour was not what it was wont to be, had theaudacity to introduce her lover into the house, confident that even ifher mistress saw him she would not dare to expose him; for the sins ofmistresses entail this mischief among others; they make themselves theslaves of their own servants, and are obliged to hide their laxitiesand depravities; as was the case with Camilla, who though sheperceived, not once but many times, that Leonela was with her lover insome room of the house, not only did not dare to chide her, butafforded her opportunities for concealing him and removed alldifficulties, lest he should be seen by her husband. She was unable,however, to prevent him from being seen on one occasion, as he salliedforth at daybreak, by Lothario, who, not knowing who he was, atfirst took him for a spectre; but, as soon as he saw him hastenaway, muffling his face with his cloak and concealing himselfcarefully and cautiously, he rejected this foolish idea, and adoptedanother, which would have been the ruin of all had not Camilla found aremedy. It did not occur to Lothario that this man he had seen issuingat such an untimely hour from Anselmo's house could have entered it onLeonela's account, nor did he even remember there was such a person asLeonela; all he thought was that as Camilla had been light andyielding with him, so she had been with another; for this furtherpenalty the erring woman's sin brings with it, that her honour isdistrusted even by him to whose overtures and persuasions she hasyielded; and he believes her to have surrendered more easily toothers, and gives implicit credence to every suspicion that comes intohis mind. All Lothario's good sense seems to have failed him at thisjuncture; all his prudent maxims escaped his memory; for withoutonce reflecting rationally, and without more ado, in his impatienceand in the blindness of the jealous rage that gnawed his heart, anddying 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 withmyself, striving to withhold from thee what it is no longer possibleor right that I should conceal from thee. Know that Camilla's fortresshas surrendered and is ready to submit to my will; and if I havebeen slow to reveal this fact to thee, it was in order to see if itwere some light caprice of hers, or if she sought to try me andascertain if the love I began to make to her with thy permission wasmade with a serious intention. I thought, too, that she, if she werewhat she ought to be, and what we both believed her, would have erethis given thee information of my addresses; but seeing that shedelays, I believe the truth of the promise she has given me that thenext time thou art absent from the house she will grant me aninterview in the closet where thy jewels are kept (and it was truethat Camilla used to meet him there); but I do not wish thee to rushprecipitately to take vengeance, for the sin is as yet onlycommitted in intention, and Camilla's may change perhaps betweenthis and the appointed time, and repentance spring up in its place. Ashitherto thou hast always followed my advice wholly or in part, followand observe this that I will give thee now, so that, withoutmistake, and with mature deliberation, thou mayest satisfy thyselfas to what may seem the best course; pretend to absent thyself for twoor three days as thou hast been wont to do on other occasions, andcontrive to hide thyself in the closet; for the tapestries and otherthings there afford great facilities for thy concealment, and thenthou wilt see with thine own eyes and I with mine what Camilla'spurpose may be. And if it be a guilty one, which may be fearedrather than expected, with silence, prudence, and discretion thoucanst thyself become the instrument of punishment for the wrong donethee."

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

Lothario gave him his word, but after leaving him he repentedaltogether of what he had said to him, perceiving how foolishly he hadacted, as he might have revenged himself upon Camilla in some lesscruel and degrading way. He cursed his want of sense, condemned hishasty resolution, and knew not what course to take to undo themischief or find some ready escape from it. At last he decided uponrevealing all to Camilla, and, as there was no want of opportunity fordoing so, he found her alone the same day; but she, as soon as she hadthe chance of speaking to him, said, "Lothario my friend, I musttell thee I have a sorrow in my heart which fills it so that itseems ready to burst; and it will be a wonder if it does not; forthe audacity of Leonela has now reached such a pitch that everynight she conceals a gallant of hers in this house and remains withhim till morning, at the expense of my reputation; inasmuch as it isopen to anyone to question it who may see him quitting my house atsuch unseasonable hours; but what distresses me is that I cannotpunish or chide her, for her privity to our intrigue bridles mymouth and keeps me silent about hers, while I am dreading that somecatastrophe will come of it."

As Camilla said this Lothario at first imagined it was some deviceto delude him into the idea that the man he had seen going out wasLeonela's lover and not hers; but when he saw how she wept andsuffered, and begged him to help her, he became convinced of thetruth, and the conviction completed his confusion and remorse;however, he told Camilla not to distress herself, as he would takemeasures to put a stop to the insolence of Leonela. At the same timehe told her what, driven by the fierce rage of jealousy, he had saidto Anselmo, and how he had arranged to hide himself in the closet thathe might there see plainly how little she preserved her fidelity tohim; and he entreated her pardon for this madness, and her advice asto how to repair it, and escape safely from the intricate labyrinth inwhich his imprudence had involved him. Camilla was struck with alarmat hearing what Lothario said, and with much anger, and great goodsense, she reproved him and rebuked his base design and the foolishand mischievous resolution he had made; but as woman has by nature animbler wit than man for good and for evil, though it is apt to failwhen she sets herself deliberately to reason, Camilla on the spur ofthe moment thought of a way to remedy what was to all appearanceirremediable, and told Lothario to contrive that the next dayAnselmo should conceal himself in the place he mentioned, for shehoped from his concealment to obtain the means of their enjoyingthemselves for the future without any apprehension; and withoutrevealing her purpose to him entirely she charged him to be careful,as soon as Anselmo was concealed, to come to her when Leonela shouldcall him, and to all she said to him to answer as he would haveanswered had he not known that Anselmo was listening. Lothario pressedher to explain her intention fully, so that he might with morecertainty and precaution take care to do what he saw to be needful.

Title: Don Quixote
Author: Miqeul de Cervantes
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