**In which is related the novel of "The Ill-Advised Curiosity"**
In Florence, a rich and famous city of Italy in the province called Tuscany, there lived two gentlemen of wealth and quality, Anselmo and Lothario, suc_reat friends that by way of distinction they were called by all that kne_hem "The Two Friends." They were unmarried, young, of the same age and of th_ame tastes, which was enough to account for the reciprocal friendship betwee_hem. Anselmo, it is true, was somewhat more inclined to seek pleasure in lov_han Lothario, for whom the pleasures of the chase had more attraction; but o_ccasion Anselmo would forego his own tastes to yield to those of Lothario, and Lothario would surrender his to fall in with those of Anselmo, and in thi_ay their inclinations kept pace one with the other with a concord so perfec_hat the best regulated clock could not surpass it.
Anselmo was deep in love with a high-born and beautiful maiden of the sam_ity, the daughter of parents so estimable, and so estimable herself, that h_esolved, with the approval of his friend Lothario, without whom he di_othing, to ask her of them in marriage, and did so, Lothario being the beare_f the demand, and conducting the negotiation so much to the satisfaction o_is friend that in a short time he was in possession of the object of hi_esires, and Camilla so happy in having won Anselmo for her husband, that sh_ave thanks unceasingly to heaven and to Lothario, by whose means such goo_ortune had fallen to her. The first few days, those of a wedding bein_sually days of merry-making, Lothario frequented his friend Anselmo's hous_s he had been wont, striving to do honour to him and to the occasion, and t_ratify him in every way he could; but when the wedding days were over and th_uccession of visits and congratulations had slackened, he began purposely t_eave off going to the house of Anselmo, for it seemed to him, as it naturall_ould to all men of sense, that friends' houses ought not to be visited afte_arriage with the same frequency as in their masters' bachelor days: because, though true and genuine friendship cannot and should not be in any wa_uspicious, still a married man's honour is a thing of such delicacy that i_s held liable to injury from brothers, much more from friends. Anselm_emarked the cessation of Lothario's visits, and complained of it to him, saying that if he had known that marriage was to keep him from enjoying hi_ociety as he used, he would have never married; and that, if by the thoroug_armony that subsisted between them while he was a bachelor they had earne_uch a sweet name as that of "The Two Friends," he should not allow a title s_are and so delightful to be lost through a needless anxiety to ac_ircumspectly; and so he entreated him, if such a phrase was allowable betwee_hem, to be once more master of his house and to come in and go out a_ormerly, assuring him that his wife Camilla had no other desire o_nclination than that which he would wish her to have, and that knowing ho_incerely they loved one another she was grieved to see such coldness in him.
To all this and much more that Anselmo said to Lothario to persuade him t_ome to his house as he had been in the habit of doing, Lothario replied wit_o much prudence, sense, and judgment, that Anselmo was satisfied of hi_riend's good intentions, and it was agreed that on two days in the week, an_n holidays, Lothario should come to dine with him; but though thi_rrangement was made between them Lothario resolved to observe it no furthe_han he considered to be in accordance with the honour of his friend, whos_ood name was more to him than his own. He said, and justly, that a marrie_an upon whom heaven had bestowed a beautiful wife should consider a_arefully what friends he brought to his house as what female friends his wif_ssociated with, for what cannot be done or arranged in the market-place, i_hurch, at public festivals or at stations (opportunities that husbands canno_lways deny their wives), may be easily managed in the house of the femal_riend or relative in whom most confidence is reposed. Lothario said, too, that every married man should have some friend who would point out to him an_egligence he might be guilty of in his conduct, for it will sometimes happe_hat owing to the deep affection the husband bears his wife either he does no_aution her, or, not to vex her, refrains from telling her to do or not to d_ertain things, doing or avoiding which may be a matter of honour or reproac_o him; and errors of this kind he could easily correct if warned by a friend.
But where is such a friend to be found as Lothario would have, so judicious, so loyal, and so true?
Of a truth I know not; Lothario alone was such a one, for with the utmost car_nd vigilance he watched over the honour of his friend, and strove t_iminish, cut down, and reduce the number of days for going to his hous_ccording to their agreement, lest the visits of a young man, wealthy, high- born, and with the attractions he was conscious of possessing, at the house o_ woman so beautiful as Camilla, should be regarded with suspicion by th_nquisitive and malicious eyes of the idle public. For though his integrit_nd reputation might bridle slanderous tongues, still he was unwilling t_azard either his own good name or that of his friend; and for this reaso_ost of the days agreed upon he devoted to some other business which h_retended was unavoidable; so that a great portion of the day was taken u_ith complaints on one side and excuses on the other. It happened, however, that on one occasion when the two were strolling together outside the city, Anselmo addressed the following words to Lothario.
"Thou mayest suppose, Lothario my friend, that I am unable to give sufficien_hanks for the favours God has rendered me in making me the son of suc_arents as mine were, and bestowing upon me with no niggard hand what ar_alled the gifts of nature as well as those of fortune, and above all for wha_e has done in giving me thee for a friend and Camilla for a wife—tw_reasures that I value, if not as highly as I ought, at least as highly as _m able. And yet, with all these good things, which are commonly all that me_eed to enable them to live happily, I am the most discontented an_issatisfied man in the whole world; for, I know not how long since, I hav_een harassed and oppressed by a desire so strange and so unusual, that _onder at myself and blame and chide myself when I am alone, and strive t_tifle it and hide it from my own thoughts, and with no better success than i_ were endeavouring deliberately to publish it to all the world; and as, i_hort, it must come out, I would confide it to thy safe keeping, feeling sur_hat by this means, and by thy readiness as a true friend to afford me relief, I shall soon find myself freed from the distress it causes me, and that th_are will give me happiness in the same degree as my own folly has caused m_isery."
The words of Anselmo struck Lothario with astonishment, unable as he was t_onjecture the purport of such a lengthy preamble; and though be strove t_magine what desire it could be that so troubled his friend, his conjecture_ere all far from the truth, and to relieve the anxiety which this perplexit_as causing him, he told him he was doing a flagrant injustice to their grea_riendship in seeking circuitous methods of confiding to him his most hidde_houghts, for he well knew he might reckon upon his counsel in diverting them, or his help in carrying them into effect.
"That is the truth," replied Anselmo, "and relying upon that I will tell thee, friend Lothario, that the desire which harasses me is that of knowing whethe_y wife Camilla is as good and as perfect as I think her to be; and I canno_atisfy myself of the truth on this point except by testing her in such a wa_hat the trial may prove the purity of her virtue as the fire proves that o_old; because I am persuaded, my friend, that a woman is virtuous only i_roportion as she is or is not tempted; and that she alone is strong who doe_ot yield to the promises, gifts, tears, and importunities of earnest lovers; for what thanks does a woman deserve for being good if no one urges her to b_ad, and what wonder is it that she is reserved and circumspect to whom n_pportunity is given of going wrong and who knows she has a husband that wil_ake her life the first time he detects her in an impropriety? I do no_herefore hold her who is virtuous through fear or want of opportunity in th_ame estimation as her who comes out of temptation and trial with a crown o_ictory; and so, for these reasons and many others that I could give thee t_ustify and support the opinion I hold, I am desirous that my wife Camill_hould pass this crisis, and be refined and tested by the fire of findin_erself wooed and by one worthy to set his affections upon her; and if sh_omes out, as I know she will, victorious from this struggle, I shall loo_pon my good fortune as unequalled, I shall be able to say that the cup of m_esire is full, and that the virtuous woman of whom the sage says 'Who shal_ind her?' has fallen to my lot. And if the result be the contrary of what _xpect, in the satisfaction of knowing that I have been right in my opinion, _hall bear without complaint the pain which my so dearly bought experienc_ill naturally cause me. And, as nothing of all thou wilt urge in oppositio_o my wish will avail to keep me from carrying it into effect, it is m_esire, friend Lothario, that thou shouldst consent to become the instrumen_or effecting this purpose that I am bent upon, for I will afford the_pportunities to that end, and nothing shall be wanting that I may thin_ecessary for the pursuit of a virtuous, honourable, modest and high-minde_oman. And among other reasons, I am induced to entrust this arduous task t_hee by the consideration that if Camilla be conquered by thee the conques_ill not be pushed to extremes, but only far enough to account tha_ccomplished which from a sense of honour will be left undone; thus I shal_ot be wronged in anything more than intention, and my wrong will remai_uried in the integrity of thy silence, which I know well will be as lastin_s that of death in what concerns me. If, therefore, thou wouldst have m_njoy what can be called life, thou wilt at once engage in this love struggle, not lukewarmly nor slothfully, but with the energy and zeal that my desir_emands, and with the loyalty our friendship assures me of."
Such were the words Anselmo addressed to Lothario, who listened to them wit_uch attention that, except to say what has been already mentioned, he did no_pen his lips until the other had finished. Then perceiving that he had n_ore to say, after regarding him for awhile, as one would regard somethin_ever before seen that excited wonder and amazement, he said to him, "I canno_ersuade myself, Anselmo my friend, that what thou hast said to me is not i_est; if I thought that thou wert speaking seriously I would not have allowe_hee to go so far; so as to put a stop to thy long harangue by not listenin_o thee I verily suspect that either thou dost not know me, or I do not kno_hee; but no, I know well thou art Anselmo, and thou knowest that I a_othario; the misfortune is, it seems to me, that thou art not the Anselm_hou wert, and must have thought that I am not the Lothario I should be; fo_he things that thou hast said to me are not those of that Anselmo who was m_riend, nor are those that thou demandest of me what should be asked of th_othario thou knowest. True friends will prove their friends and make use o_hem, as a poet has said, usque ad aras; whereby he meant that they will no_ake use of their friendship in things that are contrary to God's will. I_his, then, was a heathen's feeling about friendship, how much more should i_e a Christian's, who knows that the divine must not be forfeited for the sak_f any human friendship? And if a friend should go so far as to put aside hi_uty to Heaven to fulfil his duty to his friend, it should not be in matter_hat are trifling or of little moment, but in such as affect the friend's lif_nd honour. Now tell me, Anselmo, in which of these two art thou imperilled, that I should hazard myself to gratify thee, and do a thing so detestable a_hat thou seekest of me? Neither forsooth; on the contrary, thou dost ask o_e, so far as I understand, to strive and labour to rob thee of honour an_ife, and to rob myself of them at the same time; for if I take away th_onour it is plain I take away thy life, as a man without honour is worse tha_ead; and being the instrument, as thou wilt have it so, of so much wrong t_hee, shall not I, too, be left without honour, and consequently without life?
Listen to me, Anselmo my friend, and be not impatient to answer me until _ave said what occurs to me touching the object of thy desire, for there wil_e time enough left for thee to reply and for me to hear."
"Be it so," said Anselmo, "say what thou wilt."
Lothario then went on to say, "It seems to me, Anselmo, that thine is just no_he temper of mind which is always that of the Moors, who can never be brough_o see the error of their creed by quotations from the Holy Scriptures, or b_easons which depend upon the examination of the understanding or are founde_pon the articles of faith, but must have examples that are palpable, easy, intelligible, capable of proof, not admitting of doubt, with mathematica_emonstrations that cannot be denied, like, 'If equals be taken from equals, the remainders are equal:' and if they do not understand this in words, an_ndeed they do not, it has to be shown to them with the hands, and put befor_heir eyes, and even with all this no one succeeds in convincing them of th_ruth of our holy religion. This same mode of proceeding I shall have to adop_ith thee, for the desire which has sprung up in thee is so absurd and remot_rom everything that has a semblance of reason, that I feel it would be _aste of time to employ it in reasoning with thy simplicity, for at present _ill call it by no other name; and I am even tempted to leave thee in th_olly as a punishment for thy pernicious desire; but the friendship I bea_hee, which will not allow me to desert thee in such manifest danger o_estruction, keeps me from dealing so harshly by thee. And that thou mayes_learly see this, say, Anselmo, hast thou not told me that I must force m_uit upon a modest woman, decoy one that is virtuous, make overtures to on_hat is pure-minded, pay court to one that is prudent? Yes, thou hast told m_o. Then, if thou knowest that thou hast a wife, modest, virtuous, pure-minde_nd prudent, what is it that thou seekest? And if thou believest that she wil_ome forth victorious from all my attacks—as doubtless she would—what highe_itles than those she possesses now dost thou think thou canst upon her then, or in what will she be better then than she is now? Either thou dost not hol_er to be what thou sayest, or thou knowest not what thou dost demand. If tho_ost not hold her to be what thou why dost thou seek to prove her instead o_reating her as guilty in the way that may seem best to thee? but if she be a_irtuous as thou believest, it is an uncalled-for proceeding to make trial o_ruth itself, for, after trial, it will but be in the same estimation a_efore. Thus, then, it is conclusive that to attempt things from which har_ather than advantage may come to us is the part of unreasoning and reckles_inds, more especially when they are things which we are not forced o_ompelled to attempt, and which show from afar that it is plainly madness t_ttempt them.
"Difficulties are attempted either for the sake of God or for the sake of th_orld, or for both; those undertaken for God's sake are those which the saint_ndertake when they attempt to live the lives of angels in human bodies; thos_ndertaken for the sake of the world are those of the men who traverse such _ast expanse of water, such a variety of climates, so many strange countries, to acquire what are called the blessings of fortune; and those undertaken fo_he sake of God and the world together are those of brave soldiers, who n_ooner do they see in the enemy's wall a breach as wide as a cannon ball coul_ake, than, casting aside all fear, without hesitating, or heeding th_anifest peril that threatens them, borne onward by the desire of defendin_heir faith, their country, and their king, they fling themselves dauntlessl_nto the midst of the thousand opposing deaths that await them. Such are th_hings that men are wont to attempt, and there is honour, glory, gain, i_ttempting them, however full of difficulty and peril they may be; but tha_hich thou sayest it is thy wish to attempt and carry out will not win the_he glory of God nor the blessings of fortune nor fame among men; for even i_he issue he as thou wouldst have it, thou wilt be no happier, richer, or mor_onoured than thou art this moment; and if it be otherwise thou wilt b_educed to misery greater than can be imagined, for then it will avail the_othing to reflect that no one is aware of the misfortune that has befalle_hee; it will suffice to torture and crush thee that thou knowest it thyself.
And in confirmation of the truth of what I say, let me repeat to thee a stanz_ade by the famous poet Luigi Tansillo at the end of the first part of his
'Tears of Saint Peter,' which says thus:
The anguish and the shame but greater grew In Peter's heart as morning slowl_ame; No eye was there to see him, well he knew, Yet he himself was to himsel_ shame; Exposed to all men's gaze, or screened from view, A noble heart wil_eel the pang the same; A prey to shame the sinning soul will be, Though non_ut heaven and earth its shame can see.
Thus by keeping it secret thou wilt not escape thy sorrow, but rather tho_ilt shed tears unceasingly, if not tears of the eyes, tears of blood from th_eart, like those shed by that simple doctor our poet tells us of, that trie_he test of the cup, which the wise Rinaldo, better advised, refused to do; for though this may be a poetic fiction it contains a moral lesson worthy o_ttention and study and imitation. Moreover by what I am about to say to the_hou wilt be led to see the great error thou wouldst commit.
"Tell me, Anselmo, if Heaven or good fortune had made thee master and lawfu_wner of a diamond of the finest quality, with the excellence and purity o_hich all the lapidaries that had seen it had been satisfied, saying with on_oice and common consent that in purity, quality, and fineness, it was al_hat a stone of the kind could possibly be, thou thyself too being of the sam_elief, as knowing nothing to the contrary, would it be reasonable in thee t_esire to take that diamond and place it between an anvil and a hammer, and b_ere force of blows and strength of arm try if it were as hard and as fine a_hey said? And if thou didst, and if the stone should resist so silly a test, that would add nothing to its value or reputation; and if it were broken, a_t might be, would not all be lost? Undoubtedly it would, leaving its owner t_e rated as a fool in the opinion of all. Consider, then, Anselmo my friend, that Camilla is a diamond of the finest quality as well in thy estimation a_n that of others, and that it is contrary to reason to expose her to the ris_f being broken; for if she remains intact she cannot rise to a higher valu_han she now possesses; and if she give way and be unable to resist, bethin_hee now how thou wilt be deprived of her, and with what good reason thou wil_omplain of thyself for having been the cause of her ruin and thine own.
Remember there is no jewel in the world so precious as a chaste and virtuou_oman, and that the whole honour of women consists in reputation; and sinc_hy wife's is of that high excellence that thou knowest, wherefore shoulds_hou seek to call that truth in question? Remember, my friend, that woman i_n imperfect animal, and that impediments are not to be placed in her way t_ake her trip and fall, but that they should be removed, and her path lef_lear of all obstacles, so that without hindrance she may run her cours_reely to attain the desired perfection, which consists in being virtuous.
Naturalists tell us that the ermine is a little animal which has a fur o_urest white, and that when the hunters wish to take it, they make use of thi_rtifice. Having ascertained the places which it frequents and passes, the_top the way to them with mud, and then rousing it, drive it towards the spot, and as soon as the ermine comes to the mud it halts, and allows itself to b_aken captive rather than pass through the mire, and spoil and sully it_hiteness, which it values more than life and liberty. The virtuous and chast_oman is an ermine, and whiter and purer than snow is the virtue of modesty; and he who wishes her not to lose it, but to keep and preserve it, must adop_ course different from that employed with the ermine; he must not put befor_er the mire of the gifts and attentions of persevering lovers, becaus_erhaps—and even without a perhaps—she may not have sufficient virtue an_atural strength in herself to pass through and tread under foot thes_mpediments; they must be removed, and the brightness of virtue and the beaut_f a fair fame must be put before her. A virtuous woman, too, is like _irror, of clear shining crystal, liable to be tarnished and dimmed by ever_reath that touches it. She must be treated as relics are; adored, no_ouched. She must be protected and prized as one protects and prizes a fai_arden full of roses and flowers, the owner of which allows no one to trespas_r pluck a blossom; enough for others that from afar and through the iro_rating they may enjoy its fragrance and its beauty. Finally let me repeat t_hee some verses that come to my mind; I heard them in a modern comedy, and i_eems to me they bear upon the point we are discussing. A prudent old man wa_iving advice to another, the father of a young girl, to lock her up, watc_ver her and keep her in seclusion, and among other arguments he used these:
Woman is a thing of glass;
But her brittleness 'tis best
Not too curiously to test:
Who knows what may come to pass?
Breaking is an easy matter,
And it's folly to expose
What you cannot mend to blows;
What you can't make whole to shatter.
This, then, all may hold as true,
And the reason's plain to see;
For if Danaes there be,
There are golden showers too.
"All that I have said to thee so far, Anselmo, has had reference to wha_oncerns thee; now it is right that I should say something of what regard_yself; and if I be prolix, pardon me, for the labyrinth into which thou has_ntered and from which thou wouldst have me extricate thee makes it necessary.
"Thou dost reckon me thy friend, and thou wouldst rob me of honour, a thin_holly inconsistent with friendship; and not only dost thou aim at this, bu_hou wouldst have me rob thee of it also. That thou wouldst rob me of it i_lear, for when Camilla sees that I pay court to her as thou requirest, sh_ill certainly regard me as a man without honour or right feeling, since _ttempt and do a thing so much opposed to what I owe to my own position an_hy friendship. That thou wouldst have me rob thee of it is beyond a doubt, for Camilla, seeing that I press my suit upon her, will suppose that I hav_erceived in her something light that has encouraged me to make known to he_y base desire; and if she holds herself dishonoured, her dishonour touche_hee as belonging to her; and hence arises what so commonly takes place, tha_he husband of the adulterous woman, though he may not be aware of or hav_iven any cause for his wife's failure in her duty, or (being careless o_egligent) have had it in his power to prevent his dishonour, nevertheless i_tigmatised by a vile and reproachful name, and in a manner regarded with eye_f contempt instead of pity by all who know of his wife's guilt, though the_ee that he is unfortunate not by his own fault, but by the lust of a viciou_onsort. But I will tell thee why with good reason dishonour attaches to th_usband of the unchaste wife, though he know not that she is so, nor be t_lame, nor have done anything, or given any provocation to make her so; and b_ot weary with listening to me, for it will be for thy good.
"When God created our first parent in the earthly paradise, the Holy Scriptur_ays that he infused sleep into Adam and while he slept took a rib from hi_eft side of which he formed our mother Eve, and when Adam awoke and behel_er he said, 'This is flesh of my flesh, and bone of my bone.' And God said
'For this shall a man leave his father and his mother, and they shall be tw_n one flesh; and then was instituted the divine sacrament of marriage, wit_uch ties that death alone can loose them. And such is the force and virtue o_his miraculous sacrament that it makes two different persons one and the sam_lesh; and even more than this when the virtuous are married; for though the_ave two souls they have but one will. And hence it follows that as the fles_f the wife is one and the same with that of her husband the stains that ma_ome upon it, or the injuries it incurs fall upon the husband's flesh, thoug_e, as has been said, may have given no cause for them; for as the pain of th_oot or any member of the body is felt by the whole body, because all is on_lesh, as the head feels the hurt to the ankle without having caused it, s_he husband, being one with her, shares the dishonour of the wife; and as al_orldly honour or dishonour comes of flesh and blood, and the erring wife's i_f that kind, the husband must needs bear his part of it and be hel_ishonoured without knowing it. See, then, Anselmo, the peril thou ar_ncountering in seeking to disturb the peace of thy virtuous consort; see fo_hat an empty and ill-advised curiosity thou wouldst rouse up passions tha_ow repose in quiet in the breast of thy chaste wife; reflect that what tho_rt staking all to win is little, and what thou wilt lose so much that I leav_t undescribed, not having the words to express it. But if all I have said b_ot enough to turn thee from thy vile purpose, thou must seek some othe_nstrument for thy dishonour and misfortune; for such I will not consent t_e, though I lose thy friendship, the greatest loss that I can conceive."
Having said this, the wise and virtuous Lothario was silent, and Anselmo, troubled in mind and deep in thought, was unable for a while to utter a wor_n reply; but at length he said, "I have listened, Lothario my friend, attentively, as thou hast seen, to what thou hast chosen to say to me, and i_hy arguments, examples, and comparisons I have seen that high intelligenc_hou dost possess, and the perfection of true friendship thou hast reached; and likewise I see and confess that if I am not guided by thy opinion, bu_ollow my own, I am flying from the good and pursuing the evil. This being so, thou must remember that I am now labouring under that infirmity which wome_ometimes suffer from, when the craving seizes them to eat clay, plaster, charcoal, and things even worse, disgusting to look at, much more to eat; s_hat it will be necessary to have recourse to some artifice to cure me; an_his can be easily effected if only thou wilt make a beginning, even though i_e in a lukewarm and make-believe fashion, to pay court to Camilla, who wil_ot be so yielding that her virtue will give way at the first attack: wit_his mere attempt I shall rest satisfied, and thou wilt have done what ou_riendship binds thee to do, not only in giving me life, but in persuading m_ot to discard my honour. And this thou art bound to do for one reason alone, that, being, as I am, resolved to apply this test, it is not for thee t_ermit me to reveal my weakness to another, and so imperil that honour tho_rt striving to keep me from losing; and if thine may not stand as high as i_ught in the estimation of Camilla while thou art paying court to her, that i_f little or no importance, because ere long, on finding in her that constanc_hich we expect, thou canst tell her the plain truth as regards our stratagem, and so regain thy place in her esteem; and as thou art venturing so little, and by the venture canst afford me so much satisfaction, refuse not t_ndertake it, even if further difficulties present themselves to thee; for, a_ have said, if thou wilt only make a beginning I will acknowledge the issu_ecided."
Lothario seeing the fixed determination of Anselmo, and not knowing wha_urther examples to offer or arguments to urge in order to dissuade him fro_t, and perceiving that he threatened to confide his pernicious scheme to som_ne else, to avoid a greater evil resolved to gratify him and do what h_sked, intending to manage the business so as to satisfy Anselmo withou_orrupting the mind of Camilla; so in reply he told him not to communicate hi_urpose to any other, for he would undertake the task himself, and would begi_t as soon as he pleased. Anselmo embraced him warmly and affectionately, an_hanked him for his offer as if he had bestowed some great favour upon him; and it was agreed between them to set about it the next day, Anselmo affordin_pportunity and time to Lothario to converse alone with Camilla, an_urnishing him with money and jewels to offer and present to her. H_uggested, too, that he should treat her to music, and write verses in he_raise, and if he was unwilling to take the trouble of composing them, h_ffered to do it himself. Lothario agreed to all with an intention ver_ifferent from what Anselmo supposed, and with this understanding the_eturned to Anselmo's house, where they found Camilla awaiting her husban_nxiously and uneasily, for he was later than usual in returning that day.
Lothario repaired to his own house, and Anselmo remained in his, as wel_atisfied as Lothario was troubled in mind; for he could see no satisfactor_ay out of this ill-advised business. That night, however, he thought of _lan by which he might deceive Anselmo without any injury to Camilla. The nex_ay he went to dine with his friend, and was welcomed by Camilla, who receive_nd treated him with great cordiality, knowing the affection her husband fel_or him. When dinner was over and the cloth removed, Anselmo told Lothario t_tay there with Camilla while he attended to some pressing business, as h_ould return in an hour and a half. Camilla begged him not to go, and Lothari_ffered to accompany him, but nothing could persuade Anselmo, who on th_ontrary pressed Lothario to remain waiting for him as he had a matter o_reat importance to discuss with him. At the same time he bade Camilla not t_eave Lothario alone until he came back. In short he contrived to put so goo_ face on the reason, or the folly, of his absence that no one could hav_uspected it was a pretence.
Anselmo took his departure, and Camilla and Lothario were left alone at th_able, for the rest of the household had gone to dinner. Lothario saw himsel_n the lists according to his friend's wish, and facing an enemy that could b_er beauty alone vanquish a squadron of armed knights; judge whether he ha_ood reason to fear; but what he did was to lean his elbow on the arm of th_hair, and his cheek upon his hand, and, asking Camilla's pardon for his il_anners, he said he wished to take a little sleep until Anselmo returned.
Camilla in reply said he could repose more at his ease in the reception-roo_han in his chair, and begged of him to go in and sleep there; but Lothari_eclined, and there he remained asleep until the return of Anselmo, wh_inding Camilla in her own room, and Lothario asleep, imagined that he ha_tayed away so long as to have afforded them time enough for conversation an_ven for sleep, and was all impatience until Lothario should wake up, that h_ight go out with him and question him as to his success. Everything fell ou_s he wished; Lothario awoke, and the two at once left the house, and Anselm_sked what he was anxious to know, and Lothario in answer told him that he ha_ot thought it advisable to declare himself entirely the first time, an_herefore had only extolled the charms of Camilla, telling her that all th_ity spoke of nothing else but her beauty and wit, for this seemed to him a_xcellent way of beginning to gain her good-will and render her disposed t_isten to him with pleasure the next time, thus availing himself of the devic_he devil has recourse to when he would deceive one who is on the watch; fo_e being the angel of darkness transforms himself into an angel of light, and, under cover of a fair seeming, discloses himself at length, and effects hi_urpose if at the beginning his wiles are not discovered. All this gave grea_atisfaction to Anselmo, and he said he would afford the same opportunit_very day, but without leaving the house, for he would find things to do a_ome so that Camilla should not detect the plot.
Thus, then, several days went by, and Lothario, without uttering a word t_amilla, reported to Anselmo that he had talked with her and that he had neve_een able to draw from her the slightest indication of consent to anythin_ishonourable, nor even a sign or shadow of hope; on the contrary, he said sh_ould inform her husband of it.
"So far well," said Anselmo; "Camilla has thus far resisted words; we must no_ee how she will resist deeds. I will give you to-morrow two thousand crown_n gold for you to offer or even present, and as many more to buy jewels t_ure her, for women are fond of being becomingly attired and going gail_ressed, and all the more so if they are beautiful, however chaste they ma_e; and if she resists this temptation, I will rest satisfied and will giv_ou no more trouble."
Lothario replied that now he had begun he would carry on the undertaking t_he end, though he perceived he was to come out of it wearied and vanquished.
The next day he received the four thousand crowns, and with them four thousan_erplexities, for he knew not what to say by way of a new falsehood; but i_he end he made up his mind to tell him that Camilla stood as firm agains_ifts and promises as against words, and that there was no use in taking an_urther trouble, for the time was all spent to no purpose.
But chance, directing things in a different manner, so ordered it tha_nselmo, having left Lothario and Camilla alone as on other occasions, shu_imself into a chamber and posted himself to watch and listen through th_eyhole to what passed between them, and perceived that for more than half a_our Lothario did not utter a word to Camilla, nor would utter a word thoug_e were to be there for an age; and he came to the conclusion that what hi_riend had told him about the replies of Camilla was all invention an_alsehood, and to ascertain if it were so, he came out, and calling Lothari_side asked him what news he had and in what humour Camilla was. Lothari_eplied that he was not disposed to go on with the business, for she ha_nswered him so angrily and harshly that he had no heart to say anything mor_o her.
"Ah, Lothario, Lothario," said Anselmo, "how ill dost thou meet th_bligations to me, and the great confidence I repose in thee! I have been jus_ow watching through this keyhole, and I have seen that thou has not said _ord to Camilla, whence I conclude that on the former occasions thou hast no_poken to her either, and if this be so, as no doubt it is, why dost tho_eceive me, or wherefore seekest thou by craft to deprive me of the means _ight find of attaining my desire?"
Anselmo said no more, but he had said enough to cover Lothario with shame an_onfusion, and he, feeling as it were his honour touched by having bee_etected in a lie, swore to Anselmo that he would from that moment devot_imself to satisfying him without any deception, as he would see if he had th_uriosity to watch; though he need not take the trouble, for the pains h_ould take to satisfy him would remove all suspicions from his mind. Anselm_elieved him, and to afford him an opportunity more free and less liable t_urprise, he resolved to absent himself from his house for eight days, betaking himself to that of a friend of his who lived in a village not fa_rom the city; and, the better to account for his departure to Camilla, he s_rranged it that the friend should send him a very pressing invitation.
Unhappy, shortsighted Anselmo, what art thou doing, what art thou plotting, what art thou devising? Bethink thee thou art working against thyself, plotting thine own dishonour, devising thine own ruin. Thy wife Camilla i_irtuous, thou dost possess her in peace and quietness, no one assails th_appiness, her thoughts wander not beyond the walls of thy house, thou art he_eaven on earth, the object of her wishes, the fulfilment of her desires, th_easure wherewith she measures her will, making it conform in all things t_hine and Heaven's. If, then, the mine of her honour, beauty, virtue, an_odesty yields thee without labour all the wealth it contains and thou cans_ish for, why wilt thou dig the earth in search of fresh veins, of new unknow_reasure, risking the collapse of all, since it but rests on the feeble prop_f her weak nature? Bethink thee that from him who seeks impossibilities tha_hich is possible may with justice be withheld, as was better expressed by _oet who said:
'Tis mine to seek for life in death,
Health in disease seek I,
I seek in prison freedom's breath,
In traitors loyalty.
So Fate that ever scorns to grant
Or grace or boon to me,
Since what can never be I want,
Denies me what might be.
The next day Anselmo took his departure for the village, leaving instruction_ith Camilla that during his absence Lothario would come to look after hi_ouse and to dine with her, and that she was to treat him as she woul_imself. Camilla was distressed, as a discreet and right-minded woman woul_e, at the orders her husband left her, and bade him remember that it was no_ecoming that anyone should occupy his seat at the table during his absence, and if he acted thus from not feeling confidence that she would be able t_anage his house, let him try her this time, and he would find by experienc_hat she was equal to greater responsibilities. Anselmo replied that it wa_is pleasure to have it so, and that she had only to submit and obey. Camill_aid she would do so, though against her will.
Anselmo went, and the next day Lothario came to his house, where he wa_eceived by Camilla with a friendly and modest welcome; but she never suffere_othario to see her alone, for she was always attended by her men and wome_ervants, especially by a handmaid of hers, Leonela by name, to whom she wa_uch attached (for they had been brought up together from childhood in he_ather's house), and whom she had kept with her after her marriage wit_nselmo. The first three days Lothario did not speak to her, though he migh_ave done so when they removed the cloth and the servants retired to din_astily; for such were Camilla's orders; nay more, Leonela had directions t_ine earlier than Camilla and never to leave her side. She, however, havin_er thoughts fixed upon other things more to her taste, and wanting that tim_nd opportunity for her own pleasures, did not always obey her mistress'_ommands, but on the contrary left them alone, as if they had ordered her t_o so; but the modest bearing of Camilla, the calmness of her countenance, th_omposure of her aspect were enough to bridle the tongue of Lothario. But th_nfluence which the many virtues of Camilla exerted in imposing silence o_othario's tongue proved mischievous for both of them, for if his tongue wa_ilent his thoughts were busy, and could dwell at leisure upon the perfection_f Camilla's goodness and beauty one by one, charms enough to warm with love _arble statue, not to say a heart of flesh. Lothario gazed upon her when h_ight have been speaking to her, and thought how worthy of being loved sh_as; and thus reflection began little by little to assail his allegiance t_nselmo, and a thousand times he thought of withdrawing from the city an_oing where Anselmo should never see him nor he see Camilla. But already th_elight he found in gazing on her interposed and held him fast. He put _onstraint upon himself, and struggled to repel and repress the pleasure h_ound in contemplating Camilla; when alone he blamed himself for his weakness, called himself a bad friend, nay a bad Christian; then he argued the matte_nd compared himself with Anselmo; always coming to the conclusion that th_olly and rashness of Anselmo had been worse than his faithlessness, and tha_f he could excuse his intentions as easily before God as with man, he had n_eason to fear any punishment for his offence.
In short the beauty and goodness of Camilla, joined with the opportunity whic_he blind husband had placed in his hands, overthrew the loyalty of Lothario; and giving heed to nothing save the object towards which his inclinations le_im, after Anselmo had been three days absent, during which he had bee_arrying on a continual struggle with his passion, he began to make love t_amilla with so much vehemence and warmth of language that she was overwhelme_ith amazement, and could only rise from her place and retire to her roo_ithout answering him a word. But the hope which always springs up with lov_as not weakened in Lothario by this repelling demeanour; on the contrary hi_assion for Camilla increased, and she discovering in him what she had neve_xpected, knew not what to do; and considering it neither safe nor right t_ive him the chance or opportunity of speaking to her again, she resolved t_end, as she did that very night, one of her servants with a letter t_nselmo, in which she addressed the following words to him.