This week in Wednesday’s literature piece we conclude ‘The Story of an Impertinent Curiosity‘ with Part 3 (Chapter XXXV). In Chapter 34 we read how Anselmo received letters from his wife Camilla pleading for him to return. Despite her anguish Anselmo thought it was marvelous news that apparently his plan was working and the seduction of his wife by his best friend Lothario was well underway. He answered his wife that he would return ‘with all speed’. Meanwhile Camilla put her faith in God and through good thoughts would resist all Lothario’s words. Lothario assaulted her with praises of beauty. It is said that ‘he wept, entreated, promised, flattered, persisted and feigned so feelingly’ that he eventually triumphed and Camilla eventually rendered herself.
After Anselmo returned and confronts Lothario and just as before Lothario purports that the words he spoke ‘were spent on the air’ and that Camilla is ‘garland of all good women’. Lothario offers all of Anselmo’s money back since he never had occasion to employ it. Anselmo was more than satisfied with Lothario’s discourse although Lothario and Camilla had continued their affair since his return. Anselmo wants to end the game and asks that Lothario pretend to be in love with a young Florentine woman and to write her sonnets. Lotario tells Camilla in private his verses are meant to praise Camilla alone because ‘she would have fallen into a desperate web of jealousy’ if he had read them meant for another woman.
At this point in the plot we meet Leonela the maid to whom Camilla confesses everything. Camilla admits to Leonela – ‘at having lowered my self-esteem, because I didn’t even make Lothario suffer time before taking complete possession of my will which I so quickly surrendered.’ Leonela supports her mistress telling her that love is mutable and impossible to control adding that ‘someday I’ll tell you everything my lady, for I too am made of the flesh and blood of a girl’. She then lists ‘a complete and entire alphabet’ of praise for Lothario. Leonela informs her that she too is involved in a love affair’ with a well-born young man of the same city. With these mutual confessions the main crises arises. Leonela lets her lover visit her in a room of Anselmo’s house and Camilla feels compelled to facilitate these unions. Lothario sees Leonela’s young lover leaving at the break of dawn not knowing who he was, at first he thought he was a ghost, but when he saw him walk he realised it was a young man. He hit on an impression that the young man must have been another lover of Camilla’s. If that impression had lingered it would have been the end of them all, if Camilla had not remedied the situation. Lothario becomes blind with jealous rage and prepares his revenge, informing Anselmo that Camilla had finally succumbed to his advances and that they had arranged to meet the next time Anselmo was absent. Lothario tells Anselmo to pretend to leave for a few days but to hide behind some tapestries in the room where the lovers meet. Soon thereafter Camila confesses to Lothario the troubles she is having with Leonela. So in turn Lothario confesses that instigated by the furious rages of jealousy he has told Anselmo about them and he begs her for advice on how to ‘safely escape from a twisted labyrinth’.
Camilla and Lothario then create a plan to be rid of Anselmo, once and for all. When Camilla and Lothario meet, Camilla pretends that she does not know that Anselmo is watching. When the time comes for her to kiss Lothario, Camilla states that she would rather die than commit infidelity. Camilla eloquently states “since fortune denies a complete satisfaction to my just desires, it shall not, however, be in its power to defeat that satisfaction entirely.” No one, not a character in the story, not the narrator and not even the reader knows Camilla’s true intentions when she attacks: ‘with incredible strength and agility she lunged at Lothario with the unsheathed dagger, giving such signs of wanting to drive it into his chest that even Lothario was almost in doubt regarding whether these maneuvers were true or false. Camilla struggles to keep her dagger away from Lothario and ultimately, she stabs herself in the chest and falls to the ground.
Lothario is immediately shocked because Camilla was only to pretend to stab herself, but when he looks closely he sees that Camilla has only wounded herself slightly. Lothario then begins to grieve loudly and with Leonela’s help, he carries Camilla’s body away. Anselmo is now convinced of Camilla’s honesty. He believes that his wife is a veritable ‘simulacrum of chastity’. Chapter 34 ends ominously.
The relatively short Chapter 35 below concludes this remarkable novel within a novel. Ultimately, the narrative structure combines Don Quixote’s story with Anselmo’s. The “Conclusion of the Novel of the Curious Impertinent” is integrated with Don Quixote’s “battle.” Don Quixote and Anselmo are both tempting fate and looking for trouble. Often, the distance between the story and the story-within is used to create a foil, a character whose contrasts to the main character offer more clarity and distinction to the main character. Here, Anselmo is not a foil for Quixote; he is a parallel, a co-definer. We realize that Quixote is also a “curious impertinent.” Both men become rejected outsiders; Quixote will suffer sadness and confusion just as Anselmo has. Both men adhere to a strict and private ideology. Their ideas are different from the ideas held by their friends. As ideological purists, these men are too stubborn to enjoy positive, meaningful social interactions.
For those who had the patience and nerve to read along, I hope you found ‘The Story of an Impertinent Curiosity’ as compelling and entertaining as I did.
|CHAPTER XXXV: Wherein is ended the History of the Curious-Impertinent: And likewise recounted the Rough Encounter and Conflict passed between Don Quixote and certain Bags of Red Wine|
|A little more of the novel did rest unread, when Sancho Panza, all perplexed, ran out of the chamber where his lord reposed, crying as loud as he could, ‘Come, good sirs, speedily, and assist my lord, who is engaged in one of the most terrible battles that ever mine eyes have seen. I swear that he hath given such a blow to the giant, my lady the Princess Micomicona her enemy, as he hath cut his head quite off as round as a turnip.’
‘What sayst thou, friend?’ quoth the curate (leaving off at that word to prosecute the reading of his novel). ‘Art thou in thy wits, Sancho? What a devil, man, how can that be, seeing the giant dwells at least two thousand leagues from hence?’ By this they heard a marvellous great noise within the chamber, and that Don Quixote cried out aloud, ‘Stay, false thief! robber, stay! for since thou art here, thy scimitar shall but little avail thee.’ And therewithal it seemed that he struck a number of mighty blows on the walls. And Sancho said, ‘There is no need to stand thus listening abroad, but rather that you go in and part the fray, or else assist my lord; although I think it be not very necessary, for the giant is questionless dead by this, and giving account for the ill life he led; for I saw his blood run all about the house, and his head cut off, which is as great as a great wine bag.’ ‘I am content to be hewn in pieces,’ quoth the innkeeper, hearing of this, ‘if Don Quixote or Don devil have not given some blow to one of the wine-bags that stood filled at his bed’s head, and the shed wine must needs be that which seems blood to this good man.’ And saying so, he entered into the room, and all the rest followed him, where they found Don Quixote in the strangest guise that may be imagined. He was in his shirt, the which was not long enough before to cover his thighs, and it was six fingers shorter behind. His legs were very long and lean, full of hair, and horribly dirty. He wore on his head a little red but very greasy nightcap, which belonged to the innkeeper. He had wreathed on his left arm the coverlet of his bed; on which Sancho looked very often and angrily, as one that knew well the cause of his own malice to it: and in his right hand he gripped his naked sword, wherewithal he laid round about him many a thwack; and withal spake as if he were in battle with some giant. And the best of all was, that he held not his eyes open; for he was indeed asleep, and dreaming that he was in fight with the giant. For the imagination of the adventure which he had undertaken to finish, was so bent upon it, as it made him to dream that he was already arrived at the kingdom of Micomicon, and that he was then in combat with his enemy, and he had given so many blows on the wine-bags, supposing them to be giants, as all the whole chamber flowed with wine. Which being perceived by the host, all inflamed with rage, he set upon Don Quixote with dry fists, and gave unto him so many blows that if Cardenio and the curate had not taken him away, he would doubtlessly have finished the war of the giant; and yet with all this did not the poor knight awake, until the barber brought in a great kettle full of cold water from the well, and threw it all at a clap upon him, and therewithal Don Quixote awaked, but not in such sort as he perceived the manner wherein he was. Dorothea, seeing how short and how thin her champion was arrayed, would not go in to see the conflict of her combatant and his adversary.
Sancho went up and down the floor searching for the giant’s head, and seeing that he could not find it he said, ‘Now I do see very well that all the things of this house are enchantments, for the last time that I was here, in this very same room, I got many blows and buffets, and knew not who did strike me, nor could I see any body; and now the head appears not, which I saw cut off with mine own eyes, and yet the blood ran as swiftly from the body as water would from a fountain.’ ‘What blood, or what fountain dost thou tattle of here, thou enemy of God and His saints?’ quoth the innkeeper. ‘Thou thief, dost thou not see that the blood and the fountain is no other thing than these wine-bags which are slashed here, and the wine red that swims up and down this chamber? And I wish that I may see his soul swimming in hell which did bore them!’ ‘I know nothing,’ replied Sancho, ‘but this, that if I cannot find the giant’s head, I shall become so unfortunate, as mine earldom will dissolve like salt cast into water.’ And certes, Sancho awake was in worse case than his master sleeping, so much had his lord’s promises distracted him. The innkeeper, on the other side, was at his wits’ end, to see the humour of the squire and unhappiness of his lord, and swore that it should not succeed with them now as it had done the other time, when they went away without payment; and that now the privileges of chivalry should not any whit avail him, but he should surely pay both the one and the other— yea, even for the very patches that were to be set on the bored wine-bags.
The curate held fast Don Quixote by the hands, who believing that he had achieved the adventure, and was after it come into the Princess Micomicona her presence, he laid himself on his knees before the curate, saying, ‘Well may your greatness, high and famous lady, live from henceforth secure from any danger that this unfortunate wretch may do unto you; and I am also freed from this day forward from the promise that I made unto you, seeing I have, by the assistance of the heavens, and through her favour by whom I live and breathe, so happily accomplished it.’ ‘Did not I say so?’ quoth Sancho, hearing of his master. ‘Yea, I was not drunk. See if my master hath not powdered the giant by this? The matter is questionless, and the earldom is mine own.’ Who would not laugh at these raving fits of the master and man? All of them laughed save the innkeeper, who gave himself for anger to the devil more than a hundred times. And the barber, Cardenio, and the curate, got Don Quixote to bed again, not without much ado, who presently fell asleep with tokens of marvellous weariness. They left him sleeping, and went out to comfort Sancho Panza for the grief he had, because he could not find the giant’s head; but yet had more ado to pacify the innkeeper, who was almost out of his wits for the unexpected and sudden death of his wine-bags.
The hostess, on the other side, went up and down whining and saying, ‘In an ill season and an unlucky hour did this knight-errant enter into my house, alas! and I would that mine eyes had never seen him, seeing he costs me so dear. The last time that he was here, he went away scot-free for his supper, bed, straw, and barley, both for himself and his man, his horse and his ass, saying that he was a knight-adventurer (and God give to him ill venture, and to all the other adventurers of the world!) and was not therefore bound to pay anything, for so it was written in the statutes of chivalry. And now for his cause came the other gentleman, and took away my good tail, and hath returned it me back with two quarters of damage; for all the hair is fallen off, and it cannot stand my husband any more in stead for the purpose he had it; and for an end and conclusion of all, to break my wine-bags and shed my wine: I wish I may see as much of his blood shed. And do not think otherwise; for, by my father’s old bones and the life of my mother, they shall pay me every doit, one quart upon another, or else I will never be called as I am, nor be mine own father’s daughter.’
These and such like words spake the innkeeper’s wife with very great fury, and was seconded by her good servant Maritornes. The daughter held her peace, and would now and then smile a little. But master parson did quiet and pacify all, by promising to satisfy them for the damages as well as he might, as well for the wine as for the bags, but chiefly for her tail, the which was so much accounted of and valued so highly. Dorothea did comfort Sancho, saying to him, that whensoever it should be verified that his lord had slain the giant, and established her quietly in her kingdom, she would bestow upon him the best earldom thereof. With this he took courage, and assured the princess that he himself had seen the giant’s head cut off; and for a more certain token thereof, he said that he had a beard that reached him down to his girdle; and that if the head could not now be found, it was by reason that all the affairs of that house were guided by enchantment, as he had made experience to his cost the last time that he was lodged therein. Dorothea replied that she was of the same opinion, and bade him to be of good cheer, for all would be well ended to his heart’s desire. All parties being quiet, the curate resolved to finish the end of his novel, because he perceived that there rested but a little unread thereof. Cardenio, Dorothea, and all the rest entreated him earnestly to finish it. And he desiring to delight them all herein and recreate himself, did prosecute the tale in this manner:
‘It after befel that Anselmo grew so satisfied of his wife’s honesty as he led a most contented and secure life. And Camilla did for the nonce look sourly upon Lothario, to the end Anselmo might construe her mind amiss. And for a greater confirmation thereof, Lothario requested Anselmo to excuse his coming any more to his house, seeing that he clearly perceived how Camilla could neither brook his company nor presence. But the hoodwinked Anselmo answered him that he would in no wise consent thereunto; and in this manner did weave his own dishonour a thousand ways, thinking to work his contentment. In this season, such was the delight that Leonela took also in her affections, as she suffered herself to be borne away by them headlongly, without any care or regard, confident because her lady did cover it, yea, and sometimes instructed her how she might put her desires in practice, without any fear or danger. But finally, Anselmo heard on a night somebody walk in Leonela’s chamber, and, being desirous to know who it was, as he thought to enter, he felt the door to be held fast against him, which gave him a greater desire to open it; and therefore he struggled so long and used such violence, as he threw open the door, and entered just at the time that another leaped out at the window; and therefore he ran out to overtake him, or see wherein he might know him, but could neither compass the one nor the other, by reason that Leonela, embracing him hardly, withheld him and said, “Pacify yourself, good sir, and be not troubled, nor follow him that was here; for he is one that belongs to me, and that so much, as he is my spouse.” Anselmo would not believe her, but rather, blind with rage, he drew out his poniard and would have wounded her, saying, that she should presently tell him the truth, or else he would kill her. She, distracted with fear, said, without noting her own words, “Kill me not, sir, and I will acquaint you with things which concern you more than you can imagine.” “Say quickly, then,” quoth Anselmo, “or else thou shalt die.” “It will be impossible,” replied Leonela, “for me to speak anything now, I am so affrighted; but give respite till morning, and I will recount unto you things that will marvellously astonish you; and in the meantime rest secure, that he which leaped out of the window is a young man of this city betwixt whom and me hath passed a promise of marriage.” Anselmo was somewhat satisfied by these words, and therefore resolved to expect the term which she had demanded to open her mind; for he did not suspect that he should hear anything of Camilla, by reason he was already so assured of her virtue. And so, departing out of the chamber, and shutting up Leonela therein, threatening her withal that she should never depart thence until she had said all that she promised to reveal unto him, he went presently to Camilla, to tell unto her all that which his maiden had said, and the promise she had passed, to disclose greater and more important things. Whether Camilla, hearing this, were perplexed or no, I leave to the discreet reader’s judgment; for such was the fear which she conceived, believing certainly (as it was to be doubted) that Leonela would tell to Anselmo all that she knew of her disloyalty, as she had not the courage to expect and see whether her surmise would become false or no. But the very same night, as soon as she perceived Anselmo to be asleep, gathering together her best jewels and some money, she departed out of her house unperceived of any, and went to Lothario’s lodging, to whom she recounted all that had passed, and requested him either to leave her in some safe place, or both of them to depart to some place where they might live secure out of Anselmo’s reach. The confusion that Camilla struck into Lothario was such as he knew not what to say, and much less how to resolve himself what he might do. But at last he determined to carry Camilla to a monastery wherein his sister was prioress; to which she easily condescended: and therefore Lothario departed, and left her there with all the speed that the case required, and did also absent himself presently from the city, without acquainting anybody with his departure.
‘Anselmo, as soon as it was day, without heeding the absence of his wife, arose and went to the place where he had shut up Leonela, with desire to know of her what she had promised to acquaint him withal. He opened the chamber door, and entered, but could find nobody therein, but some certain sheets knit together and tied to the window, as a certain sign how Leonela had made an escape by that way. Wherefore he returned very sad to tell to Camilla the adventure; but when he could neither find her at bed nor in the whole house, he remained astonied, and demanded for her of his servants, but none of them could tell him anything. And as he searched for her, he happened to see her coffers lie open and most of her jewels wanting; and herewithal fell into the true account of his disgrace, and that Leonela was not the cause of his misfortune, and so departed out of his house sad and pensive, even as he was, half ready and unapparelled, to his friend Lothario, to recount unto him his disaster: but when he found him to be likewise absented, and that the servants told him how their master was departed the very same night, and had borne away with him all his money, he was ready to run out of his wits. And to conclude, he returned to his own house again, wherein he found no creature, man or woman, for all his folk were departed, and had left the house alone and desert. He knew not what he might think, say, or do; and then his judgment began to fail him. There he did contemplate and behold himself in an instant, without a wife, a friend, and servants; abandoned (to his seeming) of Heaven that covered him, and chiefly without honour; for he clearly noted his own perdition in Camilla’s crime. In the end he resolved, after he had bethought himself a great while, to go to his friend’s village, wherein he had been all the while that he afforded the leisure to contrive that disaster. And so, shutting up his house, he mounted a-horseback, and rode away in languishing and doleful wise. And scarce had he ridden the halfway, when he was so fiercely assaulted by his thoughts, as he was constrained to alight, and, tying his horse to a tree, he leaned himself to the trunk thereof, and breathed out a thousand pitiful and dolorous sighs; and there he abode until it was almost night, about which hour he espied a man to come from the city a-horseback by the same way, and, having saluted him, he demanded of him what news he brought from Florence. The citizen replied, “The strangest that had happened there many a day; for it is there reported publicly that Lothario, the great friend of the rich man, hath carried away the said Anselmo’s wife Camilla this night, for she is also missing: all which a waiting-maid of Camilla’s hath confessed, whom the governor apprehended yesternight as she slipped down at a window by a pair of sheets out of the said Anselmo’s house. I know not particularly the truth of the affair, but well I wot that all the city is amazed at the accident; for such a fact would not be as much as surmised from the great and familiar amity of them two, which was so much as they were called, ‘The Two Friends.’” “Is it perhaps yet known,” replied Anselmo, “which way Lothario and Camilla have taken?” “In no wise!” quoth the citizen, “although the governor hath used all possible diligence to find them out.” “Farewell, then, good sir,” said Anselmo. “And with you, sir,” said the traveller. And so departed.
‘With these so unfortunate news poor Anselmo arrived, not only to terms of losing his wits, but also well-nigh of losing his life; and therefore, arising as well as he might, he came to his friend’s house, who had heard nothing yet of his disgrace; but perceiving him to arrive so wan, pined, and dried up, he presently conjectured that some grievous evil afflicted him. Anselmo requested him presently that he might be carried to his chamber, and provided of paper and ink to write withal. All was done, and he left in bed, and alone, for so he desired them; and also that the door should be fast locked. And being alone, the imagination of his misfortune gave him such a terrible charge, as he clearly perceived that his life would shortly fail him, and therefore resolved to leave notice of the cause of his sudden and unexpected death; and therefore he began to write it; but before he could set an end to his discourse, his breath failed, and he yielded up his life into the hands of sorrow, which his impertinent curiosity had stirred up in him. The gentleman of the house, seeing that it grew late, and that Anselmo had not called, determined to enter, and know whether his indisposition passed forward, and he found him lying on his face, with half of his body in the bed, and the other half leaning on the table whereon he lay, with a written paper unfolded, and held the pen also yet in his hand. His host drew near unto him and, first of all, having called him, he took him by the hand; and seeing that he answered not, and that it was cold, he knew that he was dead; and greatly perplexed and grieved thereat, he called in his people, that they might also be witnesses of the disastrous success of Anselmo; and after all, he took the paper and read it, which he knew to be written with his own hand, the substance whereof was this:
‘“A foolish and impertinent desire hath despoiled me of life. If the news of my death shall arrive to Camilla, let her also know that I do pardon her, for she was not bound to work miracles; nor had I any need to desire that she should work them. And seeing I was the builder and contriver of mine own dishonour, there is no reason”—
‘Hitherunto did Anselmo write, by which it appeared that his life ended in that point, ere he could set an end to the reason he was to give. The next day ensuing, the gentleman his friend acquainted Anselmo’s kinsfolk with his death; the which had already knowledge of his misfortune, and also of the monastery wherein Camilla had retired herself, being almost in terms to accompany her husband in that forcible voyage; nor for the news of his death, but for grief of others which she had received of her absent friend. It is said that although she was a widow, yet would she neither depart out of the monastery, nor become a religious woman, until she had received within a few days after news how Lothario was slain in a battle given by Monsieur de Lautrec, to the great Captain Gonzalo Fernandez of Cordova, in the kingdom of Naples; and that was the end of the late repentant friend, the which being known to Camilla, she made a profession, and shortly after deceased between the rigorous hands of sorrow and melancholy: and this was the end of them all, sprung from a rash and inconsiderate beginning.’
‘This novel,’ quoth the curate, having read it, ‘is a pretty one; but yet I cannot persuade myself that it is true, and if it be a fiction, the author erred therein; for it cannot be imagined that any husband would be so foolish as to make so costly an experience as did Anselmo; but if this accident had been devised betwixt a gentleman and his love, then were it possible; but being between man and wife, it contains somewhat that is impossible and unlikely, but yet I can take no exception against the manner of recounting thereof.’