Miqeul de Cervantes >> Don Quixote (page 53)

"I tell you," said Camilla, "there is nothing to take care of exceptto answer me what I shall ask you;" for she did not wish to explain tohim beforehand what she meant to do, fearing lest he should beunwilling 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 ofgoing to his friend's country house, took his departure, and thenreturned to conceal himself, which he was able to do easily, asCamilla and Leonela took care to give him the opportunity; and so heplaced himself in hiding in the state of agitation that it may beimagined he would feel who expected to see the vitals of his honourlaid bare before his eyes, and found himself on the point of losingthe supreme blessing he thought he possessed in his beloved Camilla.Having made sure of Anselmo's being in his hiding-place, Camilla andLeonela entered the closet, and the instant she set foot within itCamilla said, with a deep sigh, "Ah! dear Leonela, would it not bebetter, before I do what I am unwilling you should know lest youshould seek to prevent it, that you should take Anselmo's daggerthat 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 ofanother's fault. I will first know what it is that the bold licentiouseyes of Lothario have seen in me that could have encouraged him toreveal to me a design so base as that which he has disclosedregardless of his friend and of my honour. Go to the window,Leonela, and call him, for no doubt he is in the street waiting tocarry 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 isit you want to do with this dagger? Can it be that you mean to takeyour own life, or Lothario's? for whichever you mean to do, it willlead to the loss of your reputation and good name. It is better todissemble your wrong and not give this wicked man the chance ofentering the house now and finding us alone; consider, senora, weare weak women and he is a man, and determined, and as he comes withsuch a base purpose, blind and urged by passion, perhaps before youcan put yours into execution he may do what will be worse for you thantaking your life. Ill betide my master, Anselmo, for giving suchauthority in his house to this shameless fellow! And supposing youkill him, senora, as I suspect you mean to do, what shall we do withhim when he is dead?"

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

Anselmo was listening to all this, and every word that Camillauttered made him change his mind; but when he heard that it wasresolved to kill Lothario his first impulse was to come out and showhimself to avert such a disaster; but in his anxiety to see theissue of a resolution so bold and virtuous he restrained himself,intending to come forth in time to prevent the deed. At this momentCamilla, throwing herself upon a bed that was close by, swoonedaway, and Leonela began to weep bitterly, exclaiming, "Woe is me! thatI should be fated to have dying here in my arms the flower of virtueupon earth, the crown of true wives, the pattern of chastity!" withmore to the same effect, so that anyone who heard her would have takenher 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 oncoming to herself she said, "Why do you not go, Leonela, to callhither that friend, the falsest to his friend the sun ever shoneupon or night concealed? Away, run, haste, speed! lest the fire ofmy wrath burn itself out with delay, and the righteous vengeancethat I hope for melt away in menaces and maledictions."

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

"Go in peace, dear Leonela, I will not do so," said Camilla, "forrash 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 killedherself without having done anything wrong, and without having firstkilled him on whom the guilt of her misfortune lay. I shall die, ifI am to die; but it must be after full vengeance upon him who hasbrought me here to weep over audacity that no fault of mine gave birthto."

Leonela required much pressing before she would go to summonLothario, but at last she went, and while awaiting her returnCamilla continued, as if speaking to herself, "Good God! would itnot have been more prudent to have repulsed Lothario, as I have donemany a time before, than to allow him, as I am now doing, to thinkme unchaste and vile, even for the short time I must wait until Iundeceive him? No doubt it would have been better; but I should not beavenged, nor the honour of my husband vindicated, should he find soclear and easy an escape from the strait into which his depravityhas led him. Let the traitor pay with his life for the temerity of hiswanton wishes, and let the world know (if haply it shall ever cometo know) that Camilla not only preserved her allegiance to herhusband, but avenged him of the man who dared to wrong him. Still, Ithink it might be better to disclose this to Anselmo. But then Ihave called his attention to it in the letter I wrote to him in thecountry, and, if he did nothing to prevent the mischief I therepointed out to him, I suppose it was that from pure goodness ofheart and trustfulness he would not and could not believe that anythought against his honour could harbour in the breast of so stancha friend; nor indeed did I myself believe it for many days, nor shouldI have ever believed it if his insolence had not gone so far as tomake it manifest by open presents, lavish promises, and ceaselesstears. But why do I argue thus? Does a bold determination stand inneed of arguments? Surely not. Then traitors avaunt! Vengeance to myaid! Let the false one come, approach, advance, die, yield up hislife, and then befall what may. Pure I came to him whom Heavenbestowed upon me, pure I shall leave him; and at the worst bathed inmy own chaste blood and in the foul blood of the falsest friend thatfriendship ever saw in the world;" and as she uttered these wordsshe paced the room holding the unsheathed dagger, with suchirregular and disordered steps, and such gestures that one wouldhave supposed her to have lost her senses, and taken her for someviolent desperado instead of a delicate woman.

Anselmo, hidden behind some tapestries where he had concealedhimself, beheld and was amazed at all, and already felt that what hehad seen and heard was a sufficient answer to even greater suspicions;and he would have been now well pleased if the proof afforded byLothario's coming were dispensed with, as he feared some suddenmishap; but as he was on the point of showing himself and coming forthto embrace and undeceive his wife he paused as he saw Leonelareturning, leading Lothario. Camilla when she saw him, drawing along 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 chancethou darest to cross this line thou seest, or even approach it, theinstant I see thee attempt it that same instant will I pierce my bosomwith this dagger that I hold in my hand; and before thou answerestme a word desire thee to listen to a few from me, and afterwardsthou shalt reply as may please thee. First, I desire thee to tellme, Lothario, if thou knowest my husband Anselmo, and in what lightthou regardest him; and secondly I desire to know if thou knowest metoo. Answer me this, without embarrassment or reflecting deeply whatthou wilt answer, for they are no riddles I put to thee."

Lothario was not so dull but that from the first moment when Camilladirected him to make Anselmo hide himself he understood what sheintended to do, and therefore he fell in with her idea so readilyand promptly that between them they made the imposture look moretrue than truth; so he answered her thus: "I did not think, fairCamilla, that thou wert calling me to ask questions so remote from theobject with which I come; but if it is to defer the promised rewardthou art doing so, thou mightst have put it off still longer, forthe longing for happiness gives the more distress the nearer comes thehope of gaining it; but lest thou shouldst say that I do not answerthy questions, I say that I know thy husband Anselmo, and that we haveknown each other from our earliest years; I will not speak of whatthou too knowest, of our friendship, that I may not compel myself totestify against the wrong that love, the mighty excuse for greatererrors, makes me inflict upon him. Thee I know and hold in the sameestimation as he does, for were it not so I had not for a lesser prizeacted in opposition to what I owe to my station and the holy laws oftrue friendship, now broken and violated by me through that powerfulenemy, love."

"If thou dost confess that," returned Camilla, "mortal enemy ofall that rightly deserves to be loved, with what face dost thou dareto come before one whom thou knowest to be the mirror wherein he isreflected on whom thou shouldst look to see how unworthily thou him?But, woe is me, I now comprehend what has made thee give so littleheed to what thou owest to thyself; it must have been some freedomof mine, for I will not call it immodesty, as it did not proceedfrom any deliberate intention, but from some heedlessness such aswomen are guilty of through inadvertence when they think they haveno occasion for reserve. But tell me, traitor, when did I by word orsign give a reply to thy prayers that could awaken in thee a shadow ofhope of attaining thy base wishes? When were not thy professions oflove sternly and scornfully rejected and rebuked? When were thyfrequent pledges and still more frequent gifts believed or accepted?But as I am persuaded that no one can long persevere in the attempt towin love unsustained by some hope, I am willing to attribute to myselfthe blame of thy assurance, for no doubt some thoughtlessness ofmine has all this time fostered thy hopes; and therefore will I punishmyself and inflict upon myself the penalty thy guilt deserves. Andthat thou mayest see that being so relentless to myself I cannotpossibly be otherwise to thee, I have summoned thee to be a witness ofthe sacrifice I mean to offer to the injured honour of my honouredhusband, wronged by thee with all the assiduity thou wert capableof, and by me too through want of caution in avoiding everyoccasion, if I have given any, of encouraging and sanctioning thy basedesigns. Once more I say the suspicion in my mind that some imprudenceof mine has engendered these lawless thoughts in thee, is whatcauses me most distress and what I desire most to punish with my ownhands, for were any other instrument of punishment employed my errormight become perhaps more widely known; but before I do so, in mydeath I mean to inflict death, and take with me one that will fullysatisfy my longing for the revenge I hope for and have; for I shallsee, wheresoever it may be that I go, the penalty awarded byinflexible, unswerving justice on him who has placed me in aposition so desperate."

As she uttered these words, with incredible energy and swiftness sheflew upon Lothario with the naked dagger, so manifestly bent onburying it in his breast that he was almost uncertain whether thesedemonstrations were real or feigned, for he was obliged to haverecourse to all his skill and strength to prevent her from strikinghim; and with such reality did she act this strange farce andmystification that, to give it a colour of truth, she determined tostain it with her own blood; for perceiving, or pretending, that shecould not wound Lothario, she said, "Fate, it seems, will not grant myjust desire complete satisfaction, but it will not be able to keepme from satisfying it partially at least;" and making an effort tofree the hand with the dagger which Lothario held in his grasp, shereleased it, and directing the point to a place where it could notinflict a deep wound, she plunged it into her left side high upclose to the shoulder, and then allowed herself to fall to theground as if in a faint.

Leonela and Lothario stood amazed and astounded at thecatastrophe, and seeing Camilla stretched on the ground and bathedin her blood they were still uncertain as to the true nature of theact. Lothario, terrified and breathless, ran in haste to pluck out thedagger; but when he saw how slight the wound was he was relieved ofhis fears and once more admired the subtlety, coolness, and readywit of the fair Camilla; and the better to support the part he hadto play he began to utter profuse and doleful lamentations over herbody as if she were dead, invoking maledictions not only on himselfbut also on him who had been the means of placing him in such aposition: and knowing that his friend Anselmo heard him he spoke insuch a way as to make a listener feel much more pity for him thanfor Camilla, even though he supposed her dead. Leonela took her upin her arms and laid her on the bed, entreating Lothario to go inquest of some one to attend to her wound in secret, and at the sametime asking his advice and opinion as to what they should say toAnselmo about his lady's wound if he should chance to return before itwas healed. He replied they might say what they liked, for he wasnot in a state to give advice that would be of any use; all he couldtell her was to try and stanch the blood, as he was going where heshould never more be seen; and with every appearance of deep grief andsorrow he left the house; but when he found himself alone, and wherethere was nobody to see him, he crossed himself unceasingly, lost inwonder at the adroitness of Camilla and the consistent acting ofLeonela. He reflected how convinced Anselmo would be that he had asecond Portia for a wife, and he looked forward anxiously to meetinghim in order to rejoice together over falsehood and truth the mostcraftily veiled that could be imagined.

Title: Don Quixote
Author: Miqeul de Cervantes
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