This week in Wednesday’s literature piece we continue with Miguel De Cervantes
‘The Story of an Impertinent Curiosity‘ Part 2 (Chapter XXXIV). The story tells of a man Anselmo who depends entirely on tested experience as a way to determine truth. In Chapter 33 we read how Anselmo confessed to his friend Lotario that he felt an anxiety, a distress, he even called it an insanity (locura): ‘The desire which weighs me down is my wondering whether or not Camila, my wife, is as good and perfect as I imagine her to be, and I cannot verify this truth except by testing her with such a test as to make manifest the purity of her goodness, just as fire reveals whether gold contains alloys‘. In short, the good reputation of Camila was not enough without anyone ever having tempted her, and Anselmo has chosen Lotario ‘to undertake this battle of love‘.
Lothario says that “the enterprise itself is downright madness.” He protests at length presenting a variety of classical, logical and moral arguments including examples from the Bible, nature, poetry and even military life. He considers it impertinent ‘unwise’ to test Camila if Anselmo already considers her to be reserved, selfless, honest and prudent. He even quotes from a poem ‘The Tears of San Pedro (Peter)’ to reveal the Apostle’s shame and underscore a Christian’s obligation to do the right thing even when there are no witnesses. What was St Peter ashamed about? He denied Christ 3 times. Lotario concludes, ‘You can find another means of achieving your disgrace and misfortune; I will not be that instrument‘.
Anselmo even admits that he is sick, but begs Lotario to help him, at which point Lotario agrees, but with the idea of pretending. So Anselmo supplies his friend with money and jewelry to facilitate the seduction and he fabricates the indispensability of his absence in order to leave Lotario alone with Camila. But Lotario does nothing when left alone with Camila. He plants his elbow on the arm of a chair and his cheek on the palm of his hand. He lies to his friend telling him he is trying to seduce Camila as would the devil, ‘the angel of light, who being himself but of darkness, masquerades behind virtuous appearances‘. In reality he passes time with her without uttering a single word. When Lotario tells Anselmo that Camila declines his advances, Anselmo doubles down giving his friend 4 thousand gold escudos in order to buy jewelry in which to tempt her. But one day Anselmo hides in a chamber and peers through the lock. He realises that it has all been fiction and lies.
When Anselmo confronts Lotario again, Lotario then yields agreeing to start over in earnest. Anselmo again then arranges to be absent and leaves town to make the seduction easier, Lotario contemplates one by one all the extremes of grace and beauty that Camila possessed which were enough to enamor a marble statue much less a heart of human flesh. In the end the beauty and grace of Camila brought Lotario’s loyalty back down to earth. He has truly fallen in love with Camilla and begins to express his love to his friend’s wife.
Camilla soon writes letters urging Anselmo to return. Chapter 34 begins with one such letter:
CHAPTER XXXIV: Wherein is prosecuted the History of the Curious-Impertinent
‘Anselmo received the letter, and by it understood that Lothario had begun the enterprise, and that Camilla had answered to him according as he had hoped. And, marvellous glad at the news, he answered his wife by word of mouth, that she should not remove in any wise from her house; for he would return with all speed. Camilla was greatly admired at his answer, which struck her into a greater perplexity than she was at the first, being afraid to stay at home, and also to go to her father. For by staying she endangers her honesty; by going she would transgress her husband’s command. At last she resolved to do that which was worst, which was to remain at home, and not to shun Lothario’s presence, lest she should give her servants occasion of suspicion. And now she was grieved to have written what she did to her husband, fearful lest he should think that Lothario had noted in her some token of lightness, which might have moved him to lose the respect which otherwise was due unto her. But, confident in her innocency, she cast her hopes in God and her good thoughts, wherewithal she thought to resist all Lothario’s words, and by holding her silent without making him any answer, without giving any further account of the matter to her husband, lest thereby she might plunge him in new difficulties and contention with his friend, and did therefore bethink her how she might excuse Lothario to Anselmo, when he should demand the occasion that moved her to write unto him that letter.
‘With these more honest than profitable or discreet resolutions, she gave ear the second day to Lothario, who charged her with such resolution, as her constancy began to stagger, and her honesty had enough to do recurring to her eyes to contain them, lest they should give any demonstration of the amorous compassion which Lothario’s words and tears had stirred in her breast. Lothario noted all this, and it inflamed him the more. Finally, he thought that it was requisite [to] the time and leisure which Anselmo’s absence afforded him, to lay closer siege to that fortress; and so he assaulted her presumptuously, with the praises of her beauty, for there is nothing which with such facility doth rend and raze to the ground the proudly-crested turrets of women’s vanity, than the same vanity being dilated on by the tongue of adulation and flattery. To be brief, he did with all diligence undermine the rock of her integrity with so warlike engines, as although Camilla were made of brass, yet would she be overthrown, for Lothario wept, entreated, promised, flattered, persisted and feigned so feelingly, and with such tokens of truth, as, traversing Camilla’s care of her honour, he came in the end to triumph over that which was least suspected, and he most desired; for she rendered herself— even Camilla rendered herself. But what wonder if Lothario’s amity could not stand on foot? A clear example, plainly demonstrating that the amorous passion is only vanquished by shunning it, and that nobody ought to adventure to wrestle with so strong an adversary; for heavenly forces are necessary for him that would confront the violence of that passion, although human. None but Leonela knew the weakness of her lady, for from her the two bad friends and new lovers could not conceal the matter; nor yet would Lothario discover to Camilla her husband’s pretence, or that he had given him wittingly the opportunity whereby he arrived to that pass, because she should not imagine that he had gotten her lightly, and by chance, and did not purposely solicit her.
‘A few days after, Anselmo arrived to his house, and did not perceive what wanted therein, to wit, that which it had lost, and he most esteemed. From thence he went to see his friend Lothario, whom he found at home, and, embracing one another, he demanded of him the news of his life or of his death. “The news which I can give thee, friend Anselmo,” quoth Lothario, “are, that thou has a wife who may deservedly be the example and garland of all good women. The words that I spoke unto her were spent on the air, my proffers contemned, and my gifts repulsed, and besides, she hath mocked me notably for certain feigned tears that I did shed. In resolution, even as Camilla is the pattern of all beauty, so is she a treasury wherein modesty resides, courtesy and wariness dwell, and all the other virtues that may beautify an honourable woman, or make her fortunate. Therefore, friend, take back thy money, for here it is ready, and I never had occasion to employ it; for Camilla’s integrity cannot be subdued with so base things as are gifts and promises. And, Anselmo, content thyself now with the proofs made already, without attempting to make any further trial. And seeing thou hast passed over the sea of difficulties and suspicions with a dry foot, which may and are wont to be had of women, do not eftsoons enter into the profound depths of new inconveniences, nor take thou any other pilot to make experience of the goodness and strength of the vessel that Heaven hath allotted to thee, to pass therein through the seas of this world; but make account that thou art harboured in a safe haven, and there hold thyself fast with the anchor of good consideration, and so rest thee until death come to demand his debt, from the payment whereof no nobility or privilege whatsoever can exempt us.” Anselmo rested singularly satisfied at Lothario’s discourse, and did believe it as firmly as if it were delivered by an oracle; but did entreat him notwithstanding to prosecute his attempt, although it were only done for curiosity, and to pass away the time; yet not to use so efficacious means as he hitherto practised; and that he only desired him to write some verses in her praise under the name of Chloris, for he would make Camilla believe that he was enamoured on a certain lady, to whom he did appropriate that name, that he might celebrate her praises with the respect due to her honour; and that if he would not take the pains to invent them, then he himself would willingly compose them. “That is not needful,” quoth Lothario, “for the Muses are not so alienated from me, but that they visit me sometimes in the year. Tell you unto Camilla what you have divined of my loves, and as for the verses, I will make them myself; if not so well as the subject deserves, yet at the least as artificially as I may devise them.” The impertinent-curious man and his treacherous friend having thus agreed, and Anselmo returned to his house, he demanded of Camilla that which she marvelled he had not asked before, that she should tell unto him the occasion why she sent unto him the letter? Camilla made answer, because it seemed unto her that Lothario beheld her somewhat more immodestly than when he was at home; but that now she did again dissuade herself, and believed that it was but a light surmise, without any ground, because that she perceived Lothario to loathe her presence, or [to] be by any means alone with her. Anselmo told her that she might very well live secure for him, for that he knew Lothario’s affections were bestowed elsewhere, and that upon one of the noblest damsels of the city, whose praises he solemnized under the name of Chloris, and that although he were not, yet was there no cause to doubt of Lothario’s virtue, or the amity that was between them both. Here, if Camilla had not been premonished by Lothario that the love of Chloris was but feigned, and that he himself had told it to Anselmo to blind him, that he might with less difficulty celebrate her own praises under the name of Chloris, she had without doubt fallen into the desperate toils of jealousy; but being already advertised, she posted over that assault lightly. The day following, they three sitting together at dinner, Anselmo requested Lothario to repeat some one of the verses that he had made to his beloved Chloris; for, seeing that Camilla knew her not, he might boldly say what he pleased. “Although she knew her,” quoth Lothario, “yet would I not therefore suppress any part of her praises. For when any lover praiseth his lady for her beauty, and doth withal tax her of cruelty, her credit incurs no danger. But befall what it list, I composed yesterday a sonnet of the ingratitude of Chloris, and is this ensuing:
‘Camilla liked the sonnet very well, but Anselmo best of all; for he praised it, and said, that the lady must be very cruel that would not answer such perspicuous truths with reciprocal affection. But then Camilla answered, “Why, then, belike, all that which enamoured poets say is true?” “Inasmuch as poets,” quoth Lothario, “they say not truth; but as they are enamoured, they remain as short as they are true.” “That is questionless,” quoth Anselmo, all to underprop and give Lothario more credit with Camilla, who was as careless of the cause (her husband said so) as she was enamoured of Lothario; and therefore with the delight she took in his compositions, but chiefly knowing that his desires and labours were addressed to herself, who was the true Chloris, she entreated him to repeat some other sonnet or ditty, if he remembered any. “Yes, that I do,” quoth Lothario; “but I believe that it is not so good as the first, as you may well judge; for it is this:
‘Anselmo commended also this second sonnet as he had done the first, and added by that means one link to another in the chain wherewith he entangled himself, and forged his own dishonour; seeing, when Lothario dishonoured him most of all, he said unto him then that he honoured him most. And herewithal Camilla made all the links, that verily served only to abase her down to the centre of contempt, seem to mount her in her husband’s opinion up to the height of virtue and good fame.
‘It befel soon after, that Camilla, finding herself alone with her maiden, said to her, “I am ashamed, friend Leonela, to see how little I knew to value myself, seeing that I made not Lothario spend some time at least in the purchasing the whole possession of me, which I, with a prompt will, bestowed upon him speedily. I fear me that he will impute my hastiness to lightness, without considering the force he used towards me, which wholly hindered and disabled my resistance.” “Let not that afflict you, madam,” quoth Leonela; “for it is no sufficient cause to diminish estimation, that be given quickly which is to be given, if that in effect be good that is given, and be in itself worthy of estimation; for it is an old proverb, ‘that he that gives quickly, gives twice.’” “It is also said as well,” quoth Camilla, “‘that that which costeth little is less esteemed.’” “That reason hath no place in you,” quoth Leonela, “forasmuch as love, according as some have said of it, doth sometimes fly, other times it goes; it runs with this man, and goes leisurely with the other; it makes some key-cold, and inflames others; some it wounds, and some it kills; it begins the career of his desires in an instant, and in the very same it concludes it likewise. It is wont to lay siege to the fortress in the morning, and at night it makes it to yield, for there’s no force able to resist it; which being so, what do you wonder? or what is it that you fear, if the same hath befallen Lothario, seeing that love made of my lord’s absence an instrument to vanquish us? And it was forcible, that in it we should conclude on it which love had before determined, without giving time itself any time to lead Anselmo that he might return, and with his presence leave the work imperfect. For love hath none so officious or better a minister to execute his desires than is occasion. It serves itself of occasion in all his act, but most of all at the beginning. And all this that I have said I know rather by experience than hearsay, as I will some day let you to understand; for, madam, I am likewise made of flesh and lusty young blood. And as for you, Lady Camilla, you did not give up and yield yourself presently, but stayed until you had first seen in Lothario’s eyes, his sighs, in his discourses, in his promises, and gifts, all his soul, in which, and in his perfections, you might read how worthy he is to be loved. And seeing this is so, let not these scruples and nice thoughts assault or further disturb your mind, but persuade yourself that Lothario esteems you as much as you do him, and lives with content and satisfaction, seeing that it was your fortune to fall into the amorous snare, that it was his good luck to catch you with his valour and deserts; who not only hath the four S’s which they say every good lover ought to have, but also the whole A B C, which if you will not credit, do but listen to me a while, and I will repeat it to you by rote. He is, as it seems, and as far as I can judge, Amiable, Bountiful, Courteous, Dutiful, Enamoured, Firm, Gallant, Honourable, Illustrious, Loyal, Mild, Noble, Honest, Prudent, Quiet, Rich, and the S’s which they say; and besides True, Valorous. The X doth not quader well with him, because it sounds harshly. Y he is Young, and the Z he is Zealous of thine honour.” Camilla laughed at her maiden’s A B C, and accounted her to be more practised in love-matters than she herself had confessed, as indeed she was; for then she revealed to her mistress how she and a certain young man, well-born, of the city, did treat of love one with another. Hereat her mistress was not a little troubled in mind, fearing that her honour might be greatly endangered by that means; she demanded whether her affection had passed further than words? And the maid answered very shamelessly and freely that they did; for it is most certain, that this kind of reccheless mistress do also make their maidens careless and impudent; who, when they perceive their ladies to falter, are commonly wont to halt likewise themselves, and care not that the world do know it.
‘Camilla, seeing that error past remedy, could do no more but entreat Leonela not to reveal anything of their affairs to him she said was her sweetheart, and that she should handle her matters discreetly and secretly, lest they might come to Anselmo or Lothario’s notice. Leonela promised to perform her will, but did accomplish her promise in such sort, as she did confirm Camilla’s fears that she should lose her credit by her means. For the dishonest and bold girl, after she had perceived that her mistress’ proceedings were not such as they were wont, grew so hardy, as she gave entrance and brought her lover into her master’s house, presuming that, although her lady knew it, yet would she not dare to discover it. For this among other harms follows the sins of mistresses, that it makes them slaves to their own servants, and doth oblige them to conceal their dishonest and base proceedings, as it fell out in Camilla, who, although she espied Leonela, not once only, but sundry times together, with her lover in a certain chamber of the house, she not only dared not to rebuke her for it, but rather gave her opportunity to hide him, and would remove all occasion out of her husband’s way, whereby he might suspect any such thing.
‘But all could not hinder Lothario from espying him once, as he departed out of the house at the break of the day; who, not knowing him, thought at the first it was a spirit, but when he saw him post away, and cast his cloak over his face, lest he should be known, he, abandoning his simple surmise, fell into a new suspicion which had overthrown them all, were it not that Camilla did remedy it. For Lothario thought that he whom he had seen issue out of Anselmo’s house at so unseasonable an hour, had not entered into it for Leonela’s sake, nor did he remember then that there was such a one as Leonela in the world, but only thought that, as Camilla was lightly gotten by him, so belike she was won by some other. For the wickedness of a bad woman bringeth usually all these additions, that she loseth her reputation even with him, to whom prayed and persuaded she yieldeth herself; and he believeth that she will as easily, or with more facility, consent to others, and doth infallibly credit the least suspicion which thereof may be offered.
‘And it seems that Lothario in this instant was wholly deprived of all reasonable discourse, and quite despoiled of his understanding; for, without pondering of the matter, impatient and kindled by the jealous rage that inwardly gnawed his bowels, fretting with desire to be revenged on Camilla, who had never offended him, he came to Anselmo before he was up, and said to him, “Know, Anselmo, that I have had these many days a civil conflict within myself whether I should speak or no, and I have used as much violence as I might to myself, not to discover a thing unto you, which now it is neither just nor reasonable I should conceal. Know that Camilla’s fortress is rendered, and subject to all that I please to command; and if I have been somewhat slow to inform thee this of truth, it was because I would first see whether it proceeded of some light appetite in her, or whether she did it to try me, and see whether that love was still constantly continued, which I first began to make unto her by thy order and licence. I did also believe that if she had been such as she ought to be, and her that we both esteemed her, she would have by this time acquainted you with my importunacy; but seeing that she lingers therein, I presume that her promises made unto me are true, that when you did again absent yourself out of town, she would speak with me in the wardrobe” (and it was true, for there Camilla was accustomed to talk with him), “yet would not I have thee run rashly to take revenge, seeing the sin is not yet otherwise committed than in thought, and perhaps between this and the opportunity she might hope to put it in execution, her mind would be changed, and she repent herself of her folly. And therefore seeing thou hast ever followed mine advice partly or wholly, follow and keep one counsel that I ill give unto thee now, to the end that thou mayst after, with careful assurance and without fraud, satisfy thine own will as thou likest best. Feign thyself to be absent two or three days as thou art wont, and then convey thyself cunningly into the wardrobe, where thou mayst very well hide thyself behind the tapestry, and then thou shalt see with thine own eyes, and I with mine, what Camilla will do; and if it be that wickedness which rather ought to be feared than hoped for, thou mayst, with wisdom, silence, and discretion, be the proper executioner of so injurious a wrong.”
‘Anselmo remained amazed, and almost besides himself, hearing his friend Lothario so unexpectedly to acquaint him with those things in a time wherein he least expected them; for now he esteemed Camilla to have escaped victress from the forged assaults of Lothario, and did himself triumph for glory of her victory. Suspended thus and troubled, he stood silent a great while looking on the earth, without once removing his eyes from it; and finally, turning towards his friend, he said, “Lothario, thou hast done all that which I could expect from so entire amity, and I do therefore mean to follow thine advice in all things precisely. Do therefore what thou pleasest, and keep that secret which is requisite in so weighty and unexpected an event.” “All that I do promise,” quoth Lothario; and so departed, wholly repented for that he had told to Anselmo, seeing how foolishly he had proceeded, since he might have revenged himself on Camilla very well, without taking a way so cruel and dishonourable. There did he curse his little wit, and abased his light resolution, and knew not what means to use to destroy what he had done, or give it some reasonable and contrary issue. In the end he resolved to acquaint Camilla with the whole matter, and by reason that he never missed of opportunity to speak unto her, he found her alone the very same day; and she, seeing likewise that she had fit time to speak unto him, said, “Know, friend Lothario, that a certain thing doth pinch my heart in such manner, as it seems ready to burst in my breast, as doubtlessly I fear me that in time it will, if we cannot set a remedy to it. For such is the immodesty of Leonela, as she shuts up a lover of hers every night in this house, and remains with him until daylight, which so much concerns my credit, as it leaves open a spacious field to him that sees the other go out of my house at so unseasonable times, to judge of me what he pleaseth; and that which most grieves me is, that I dare not punish or rebuke her for it. For she being privy to our proceedings, sets a bridle on me, and constrains me to conceal hers; and hence I fear will bad success befall us.” Lothario at the first suspected that Camilla did speak thus to make him believe that the man whom he had espied was Leonela’s friend, and none of hers; but seeing her to weep indeed, and be greatly afflicted in mind, he began at last to give credit unto the truth, and, believing it, was greatly confounded and grieved for that he had done. And yet, notwithstanding, he answered Camilla that she should not trouble or vex herself any more; for he would take such order, as Leonela’s impudence should be easily crossed and suppressed; and then did recount unto her all that he had said to Anselmo, spurred on by the furious rage of jealous indignation, and how her husband had agreed to hide himself behind the tapestry of the wardrobe, that he might from thence clearly perceive the little loyalty she kept towards him; and demanded pardon of her for that folly, and counsel to redress it, and come safely out of the intricate labyrinth whereinto his weak-eyed discourse had conducted him.
‘Camilla, having heard Lothario’s discourse, was afraid and amazed, and with great anger and many and discreet reasons did rebuke him, reviling the baseness of his thoughts, and the simple and little consideration that he had. But as women have naturally a sudden wit for good or bad, much more prompt than men, although when indeed they would make discourses, it proves defective; so Camilla found in an instant a remedy for an affair in appearance so irremediable and helpless, and therefore bade Lothario to induce his friend Anselmo to hide himself the next day ensuing, for she hoped to take commodity out of his being there for them both to enjoy one another with more security than ever they had before; and without wholly manifesting her proverb to him, she only advertised him to have care that, after Anselmo were hidden, he should presently come when Leonela called for him, and that he should answer her as directly to every question she proposed, as if Anselmo were not in place. Lothario did urge her importunately to declare her design unto him, to the end he might with more security and advice obscure all that was necessary. “I say,” quoth Camilla, “there is no other observance to be had, than only to answer me directly to what I shall demand.” For she would not give him account beforehand of her determination, fearful that he would not conform himself to her opinion, which she took to be so good, or else lest he would follow or seek any other, that would not prove after so well. Thus departed Lothario; and Anselmo, under pretext that he would visit his friend out of town, departed, and returned covertly back again to hide himself, which he could do the more commodiously, because Camilla and Leonela did purposely afford him opportunity. Anselmo having hidden himself with the grief that may be imagined one would conceive, who did expect to see with his own eyes an anatomy made of the bowels of his honour, and was in danger to lose the highest felicity that he accounted himself to possess in his beloved Camilla; Camilla and Leonela, being certain that he was hidden within the wardrobe, entered into it, wherein scarce had Camilla set her foot, when, breathing forth of a deep sigh, she spoke in this manner:
‘“Ah, friend Leonela! were it not better that, before I put in execution that which I would not have thee to know, lest thou shouldest endeavour to hinder it, that thou takest Anselmo’s poniard that I have sought of thee, and pass this infamous breast of mine through and through? but do it not, for it is no reason that I should suffer for other men’s faults. I will know, first of all, what the bold and dishonest eyes of Lothario noted in me, that should stir in him the presumption to discover unto me so unlawful a desire as that which he hath revealed, so much in contempt of his friend, and to my dishonour. Stand at that window, Leonela, and call him to me, for I do infallibly believe that he stands in the street awaiting to effect his wicked purpose. But first my cruel yet honourable mind shall be performed.” “Alas, dear madam,” quoth the wise and crafty Leonela, “what is it that you mean to do with that poniard? Mean you perhaps to deprive either your own or Lothario’s life therewithal? for whichsoever of these things you do, shall redound to the loss of your credit and fame. It is much better that you dissemble your wrong, and give no occasion to the bad man now to enter into this house, and find us here in it alone. Consider, good madam, how we are but weak women, and he is a man, and one resolute, and by reason that he comes blinded by his bad and passionate intent, he may peradventure, before you be able to put yours in execution, do somewhat that would be worse for you than to deprive you of your life. Evil befall my master Anselmo, that ministers so great occasion to iImpudency thus to discover her visage in our house. And if you should kill him by chance, madam, as I suspect you mean to do, what shall we do after with the dead carcase?” “What?” said Camilla, “We would leave him here that Anselmo might bury him; for it is only just that he should have the agreeable task of interring his own infamy. Make an end, then, and call him, for methinks that all the time which I spend untaking due revenge for my wrong, turns to the prejudice of the loyalty which I owe unto my spouse.”
‘Anselmo listened very attentively all the while, and at every word that Camilla said, his thoughts changed. But when he understood that she was resolved to kill Lothario, he was about to come out and discover himself, to the end that such a thing should not be done; but the desire that he had to see wherein so brave and honest a resolution would end, withheld him, determining then to sally out when his presence should be needful to hinder it. Camilla about this time began to be very weak and dismayed, and casting herself, as if she had fallen into a trance, upon a bed that was in the room, Leonela began to lament very bitterly, and to say, “Alas! wretch that I am, how unfortunate should I be, if the flower of the world’s honesty, the crown of good women, and the pattern of chastity should die here between my hands!” Those and such other things she said so dolefully, as no one could hear her that would not deem her to be one of the most esteemed and loyal damsels of the world, and take her lady for another new and persecuted Penelope. Soon after Camilla returned to herself, and said presently, “Why goest thou not, Leonela, to call the most disloyal friend of a friend that ever the sun beheld, or the night concealed? Make an end, run, make haste, and let not the fire of my choler be through thy stay consumed and spent, nor the just revenge, which I hope to take, pass over in threats of maledictions.” “I go to call him, madam,” quoth Leonela; “but, first of all, you must give me that poniard, lest you should do with it in mine absence somewhat that would minister occasion to us, your friends, to deplore you all the days of our lives.” “Go away boldly, friend Leonela,” said Camilla, “for I shall do nothing in thine absence; for although I be in thine opinion both simple and bold enough to turn for mine honour, yet mean I not to be so much as the celebrated Lucretia, of whom it is recorded that she slew herself, without having committed any error, or slain him first who was the principal cause of her disgrace. I will die, if I must needs die, but I will be satisfied and revenged on him that hath given me occasion to come into this place to lament his boldness, sprung without my default.”
‘Leonela could scarce be entreated to go and call Lothario, but at last she went out, and in the meantime Camilla remained, speaking to herself these words: “Good God! had not it been more discretion to have dismissed Lothario, as I did many times before, than thus to possess him, as I have done, with an opinion that I am an evil and dishonest woman, at least all the while that passeth, until mine acts shall undeceive him, and teach him the contrary? It had been doubtlessly better; but then should not I be revenged, nor my husband’s honour satisfied, if he were permitted to bear away so clearly his malignity, or escape out of the snare wherein his wicked thoughts involved him. Let the traitor pay with his life’s defrayment that which he attempted with so lascivious a desire. Let the world know (if it by chance shall come to know it) that Camilla did not only conserve the loyalty due to her lord, but also took revenge of the intended spoil thereof. But yet I believe that it were best to give Anselmo first notice thereof; but I did already touch it to him in the letter which I wrote to him to the village, and I believe his not concurring to take order in this so manifest an abuse, proceeds of his too sincere and good meaning, which would not, nor cannot believe that the like kind of thought could ever find entertainment in the breast of so firm a friend, tending so much to his dishonour. And what marvel if I myself could not credit it for a great many days together? Nor would I ever have thought it, if his insolency had not arrived to that pass, which the manifest gifts, large promises, and continual tears he shed do give testimony. But why do I make now these discourses? Hath a gallant resolution perhaps any need of advice? No, verily; therefore avaunt treacherous thoughts, here we must use revenge. Let the false man come in, arrive, die, and end, and let after befall what can befall. I entered pure and untouched to his possession, whom Heaven bestowed on me for mine, and I will depart from him purely. And if the worst befall, I shall only be defiled by mine own chaste blood, and the impure gore of the falsest friend that ever amity saw in this world.” And saying of this, she pranced up and down the room with the poniard naked in her hand, with such long and unmeasurable strides, and making withal such gestures, as she rather seemed defective of wit, and a desperate ruffian than a delicate woman.
‘All this Anselmo perceived very well from behind the arras that covered him, which did not a little admire him, and he thought that what he had seen and heard was a sufficient satisfaction of far greater suspicions than he had, and could have wished with all his heart that the trial of Lothario’s coming might be excused, fearing greatly some sudden bad success. And as he was ready to manifest himself, and to come out and embrace and dissuade his wife, he withdrew himself, because he saw Leonela return, bringing Lothario in by the hand. And as soon as Camilla beheld him, she drew a great stroke with the point of the poniard athwart the wardrobe, saying, “Lothario, note well what I mean to say unto thee, for if by chance thou beest so hardy as to pass over this line which thou seest, ere I come as far as it, I will in the very same instant stab myself into the heart with this poniard which I hold in my hand. And before thou dost speak or answer me any word, I would first have thee to listen to a few of mine; for after, thou mayest say what thou pleasest.
‘“First of all, I would have thee, O Lothario! to say whether thou knowest my husband, Anselmo, and what opinion thou hast of him? And next I would have thee to tell me if thou knowest myself? Answer to this without delay, nor do stand long thinking on what thou art to answer, seeing they are no deep questions which I propose unto thee.” Lothario was not so ignorant, but that from the very beginning, when Camilla requested him to persuade her husband to hide himself behind the tapestry, he had not fallen on the drift of her invention; and therefore did answer her intention so aptly and discreetly, as they made that untruth pass between them for a more than manifest verity; and so he answered to Camilla in this form: “I did never conjecture, beautiful Camilla, that thou wouldest have called me here to demand of me things so wide from the purpose for which I come. If thou dost it to defer yet the promised favour, thou mightest have entertained it yet further off, for the good desired afflicteth so much the more, by how much the hope to possess it is near. But because thou mayest not accuse me for not answering to thy demands, I say that I know thy husband Anselmo, and both of us know one another even from our tender infancy, and I will not omit to say that which thou also knowest of our amity, to make me thereby a witness against myself of the wrong which love compels me to do unto him, yet love is a sufficient excuse and excuser of greater errors than are mine. Thee do I likewise know and hold in the same possession that he doth; for were it not so, I should never have been won by less perfections than thine, to transgress so much that which I owe to myself and to the holy laws of true amity, now broken and violated by the tyranny of so powerful an adversary as love hath proved.” “If thou dost acknowledge that,” replied Camilla, “O mortal enemy of all that which justly deserveth love! with what face darest thou then appear before that which thou knowest to be the mirror wherein he looks, in whom thou also oughtest to behold thyself, to the end thou mightest perceive upon how little occasion thou dost wrong him? But, unfortunate that I am, I fall now in the reason which hath moved thee to make so little account of thine own duty, which was perhaps some negligent or light behaviour of mine, which I will not call dishonesty, seeing that, as I presume, it hath not proceeded from me deliberately, but rather through the carelessness that women which think they are not noted do sometimes unwittingly commit. If not, say, traitor, when did I ever answer thy prayers with any word or token that might awake in thee the least shadow of hope to accomplish thine infamous desires? When were not thine amorous entreaties reprehended and dispersed by the roughness and rigour of mine answers? When were thy many promises and larger gifts ever believed or admitted? But forasmuch as I am persuaded that no man can persevere long time in the amorous contention, who hath not been sustained by some hope, I will attribute the fault of thine impertinence to myself; for doubtlessly some carelessness of mine hath hitherto sustained thy care, and therefore I will chastise and give to myself the punishment which thy fault deserveth. And because thou mightest see that I, being so inhuman towards myself, could not possibly be other than cruel to thee, I thought fit to call thee to be a witness of the sacrifice which I mean to make to the offended honour of my most honourable husband, tainted by thee with the blackest note that thy malice could devise, and by me, through the negligence that I used, to shun the occasion, if I gave thee any, thus to nourish and canonise thy wicked intentions. I say again, that the suspicion I have, that my little regard hath engendered in thee these distracted thoughts, is that which afflicteth me most, and that which I mean to chastise most with mine own hands; for if another executioner punished me, then should my crime become more notorious. But before I do this, I, dying, will kill, and carry him away with me, that shall end and satisfy the greedy desire of revenge which I hope for, and I have; seeing before mine eyes, wheresoever I shall go, the punishment which disengaged justice shall inflict, it still remaining unbowed or suborned by him, who hath brought me to so desperate terms.”
‘And having said these words, she flew upon Lothario with incredible force and lightness, and her poniard naked, giving such arguments and tokens that she meant to stab him, as he himself was in doubt whether her demonstrations were false or true; wherefore he was driven to help himself by his wit and strength, for to hinder Camilla from striking of him, who did so lively act her strange guile and fiction, as to give it colour, she would give it a blush of her own blood: for perceiving, or else feigning that she could not hurt Lothario, she said, “Seeing that adverse fortune will not satisfy thoroughly my just desires, yet at least it shall not be potent wholly to cross my designs.” And then striving to free the dagger hand, which Lothario held fast, she snatched it away, and directing the point to some place of her body, which might hurt her, but not very grievously, she stabbed herself, and hid it in her apparel near unto the left shoulder, and fell forthwith to the ground, as if she were in a trance. Lothario and Leonela stood amazed at the unexpected event, and still rested doubtful of the truth of the matter, seeing Camilla to lie on the ground bathed in her blood. Lothario ran, all wan and pale, very hastily to her, to take out the poniard, and seeing how little blood followed, he lost the fear that he had conceived of her greater hurt, and began anew to admire the cunning wit and discretion of the beautiful Camilla; but yet that he might play the part of a friend, he began a long and doleful lamentation over Camilla’s body, even as she were dead, and began to breathe forth many curses and execrations not only against himself, but also against him that had employed him in that unfortunate affair. And knowing that his friend Anselmo did listen unto him, he said such things as would move a man to take more compassion of him than of Camilla herself, although they accounted her dead. Leonela took her up between her arms, and laid her on the bed, and entreated Lothario to go out, and find some one that would undertake to cure her secretly. She also demanded of him his advice, touching the excuse they might make to Anselmo concerning her mistress her wound, if he came to town before it were fully cured.
‘He answered, that they might say what they pleased, for he was not in a humour of giving any counsel worth the following; and only said this, that she should labour to stanch her lady’s blood; for he meant to go there whence they should hear no news of him ever after. And so departed out of the house with very great tokens of grief and feelings; and when he was alone in a place where nobody perceived him, he blest himself a thousand times to think of Camilla’s art, and the gestures, so proper and accommodated to the purpose, used by her maid Leonela. He considered how assured Anselmo would remain that he had a second Portia to wife, and desired to meet him, that they might celebrate together the fiction, and the best dissembled truth that could be ever imagined. Leonela, as is said, stanched her lady’s blood, which was just as much as might serve to colour her invention and no more; and, washing the wound with some wine, she tied it up the best that she could, saying such words whilst she cured her as were able, though nothing had been done before, to make Anselmo believe that he had an image of honesty in Camilla. To the plaints of Leonela, Camilla added others, terming herself a coward of base spirit, since she wanted time (being a thing so necessary) to deprive her life which she hated so mortally; she demanded counsel of her maiden, whether she would tell or conceal all that success to her beloved spouse. And she answered, that it was best to conceal it, lest she should engage her husband to be revenged on Lothario, which would not be done without his very great peril, and that every good wife was bound, not to give occasion to her husband of quarrelling, but rather to remove from him as many as was possible. Camilla answered, that she allowed of her opinion, and would follow it; and that in any sort they must study some device to cloak the occasion of her hurt from Anselmo, who could not choose but espy it. To this Leonela answered, that she herself knew not how to lie, no, not in very jest itself. “Well, friend,” quoth Camilla, “and I, what do I know? for I dare not to forge or report an untruth if my life lay on it. And if we know not how to give it a better issue, it will be better to report the naked truth than to be overtaken in a leasing.” “Do not trouble yourself, madam,” quoth Leonela; “for I will bethink myself of somewhat between this and to-morrow morning, and perhaps the wound may be concealed from him, by reason that it is in the place where it is; and Heaven perhaps may be pleased to favour our so just and honourable thoughts. Be quiet, good madam, and labour to appease your alteration of mind, that my lord at his return may not find you perplexed; and leave all the rest to God’s and my charge, who doth always assist the just.”
‘With highest attention stood Anselmo listening and beholding the tragedy of his dying honours, which the personages thereof had acted with so strange and forcible effects, as it verily seemed that they were transformed into the opposite truth of their well-contrived fiction. He longed greatly for the night and leisure to get out of his house, that he might go and congratulate with his good friend Lothario, for the precious jewel that he had found in this last trial of his wife. The mistress and maiden had as great care to give him the opportunity to depart; and he, fearing to lose it, issued out in a trice, and went presently to find Lothario, who being found, it is not possible to recount the embracements he gave unto him, the secrets of his contentment that he revealed, or the attributes and praises that he gave to Camilla. All which Lothario heard, without giving the least argument of love; having represented to his mind at that very time, how greatly deceived his friend lived, and how unjustly he himself injured him. And although that Anselmo noted that Lothario took no delight at his relation, yet did he believe that the cause of his sorrow proceeded from having left Camilla wounded, and he himself given the occasion thereof; and therefore, among many other words, said unto him, that there was no occasion to grieve at Camilla’s hurt, it doubtlessly being but light, seeing she and her maid had agreed to hide it from him,; and that according unto this there was no great cause of fear, but that from thenceforward he should live merrily and contentedly with him, seeing that by his industry and means he found himself raised to the highest felicity that might be desired; and therefore would from thenceforth spend his idle times in writing of verses in Camilla’s praise, that he might eternise her name, and make it famous in ensuing ages. Lothario commended his resolution therein, and said that he for his part would also help to raise up so noble an edifice; and herewithal Anselmo rested the most soothingly and contentedly deceived that could be found in the world. And then himself took by the hand to his house, believing that he bore the instrument of his glory, the utter perdition of his fame. Camilla entertained him with a frowning countenance, but a cheerful mind. The fraud rested unknown a while, until, at the end of certain months, fortune turned the wheel, and the wickedness that was so artificially cloaked, issued to the public notice of the world; and Anselmo his impertinent curiosity cost him his life.’