Leonela required much pressing before she would go to summon Lothario, but at last she went, and while awaiting her return Camilla continued, as if speaking to herself, "Good God! would it not have been more prudent to have repulsed Lothario, as I have done many a time before, than to allow him, as I am now doing, to think me unchaste and vile, even for the short time I must wait until I undeceive him? No doubt it would have been better; but I should not be avenged, nor the honour of my husband vindicated, should he find so clear and easy an escape from the strait into which his depravity has led him. Let the traitor pay with his life for the temerity of his wanton wishes, and let the world know (if haply it shall ever come to know) that Camilla not only preserved her allegiance to her husband, but avenged him of the man who dared to wrong him. Still, I think it might be better to disclose this to Anselmo. But then I have called his attention to it in the letter I wrote to him in the country, and, if he did nothing to prevent the mischief I there pointed out to him, I suppose it was that from pure goodness of heart and trustfulness he would not and could not believe that any thought against his honour could harbour in the breast of so stanch a friend; nor indeed did I myself believe it for many days, nor should I have ever believed it if his insolence had not gone so far as to make it manifest by open presents, lavish promises, and ceaseless tears. But why do I argue thus? Does a bold determination stand in need of arguments? Surely not. Then traitors avaunt! Vengeance to my aid! Let the false one come, approach, advance, die, yield up his life, and then befall what may. Pure I came to him whom Heaven bestowed upon me, pure I shall leave him; and at the worst bathed in my own chaste blood and in the foul blood of the falsest friend that friendship ever saw in the world;" and as she uttered these words she paced the room holding the unsheathed dagger, with such irregular and disordered steps, and such gestures that one would have supposed her to have lost her senses, and taken her for some violent desperado instead of a delicate woman.
Anselmo, hidden behind some tapestries where he had concealed himself, beheld and was amazed at all, and already felt that what he had seen and heard was a sufficient answer to even greater suspicions; and he would have been now well pleased if the proof afforded by Lothario's coming were dispensed with, as he feared some sudden mishap; but as he was on the point of showing himself and coming forth to embrace and undeceive his wife he paused as he saw Leonela returning, leading Lothario. Camilla when she saw him, drawing a long line in front of her on the floor with the dagger, said to him, "Lothario, pay attention to what I say to thee: if by any chance thou darest to cross this line thou seest, or even approach it, the instant I see thee attempt it that same instant will I pierce my bosom with this dagger that I hold in my hand; and before thou answerest me a word desire thee to listen to a few from me, and afterwards thou shalt reply as may please thee. First, I desire thee to tell me, Lothario, if thou knowest my husband Anselmo, and in what light thou regardest him; and secondly I desire to know if thou knowest me too. Answer me this, without embarrassment or reflecting deeply what thou wilt answer, for they are no riddles I put to thee."
Lothario was not so dull but that from the first moment when Camilla directed him to make Anselmo hide himself he understood what she intended to do, and therefore he fell in with her idea so readily and promptly that between them they made the imposture look more true than truth; so he answered her thus: "I did not think, fair Camilla, that thou wert calling me to ask questions so remote from the object with which I come; but if it is to defer the promised reward thou art doing so, thou mightst have put it off still longer, for the longing for happiness gives the more distress the nearer comes the hope of gaining it; but lest thou shouldst say that I do not answer thy questions, I say that I know thy husband Anselmo, and that we have known each other from our earliest years; I will not speak of what thou too knowest, of our friendship, that I may not compel myself to testify against the wrong that love, the mighty excuse for greater errors, makes me inflict upon him. Thee I know and hold in the same estimation as he does, for were it not so I had not for a lesser prize acted in opposition to what I owe to my station and the holy laws of true friendship, now broken and violated by me through that powerful enemy, love."
"If thou dost confess that," returned Camilla, "mortal enemy of all that rightly deserves to be loved, with what face dost thou dare to come before one whom thou knowest to be the mirror wherein he is reflected on whom thou shouldst look to see how unworthily thou him? But, woe is me, I now comprehend what has made thee give so little heed to what thou owest to thyself; it must have been some freedom of mine, for I will not call it immodesty, as it did not proceed from any deliberate intention, but from some heedlessness such as women are guilty of through inadvertence when they think they have no occasion for reserve. But tell me, traitor, when did I by word or sign give a reply to thy prayers that could awaken in thee a shadow of hope of attaining thy base wishes? When were not thy professions of love sternly and scornfully rejected and rebuked? When were thy frequent pledges and still more frequent gifts believed or accepted? But as I am persuaded that no one can long persevere in the attempt to win love unsustained by some hope, I am willing to attribute to myself the blame of thy assurance, for no doubt some thoughtlessness of mine has all this time fostered thy hopes; and therefore will I punish myself and inflict upon myself the penalty thy guilt deserves. And that thou mayest see that being so relentless to myself I cannot possibly be otherwise to thee, I have summoned thee to be a witness of the sacrifice I mean to offer to the injured honour of my honoured husband, wronged by thee with all the assiduity thou wert capable of, and by me too through want of caution in avoiding every occasion, if I have given any, of encouraging and sanctioning thy base designs. Once more I say the suspicion in my mind that some imprudence of mine has engendered these lawless thoughts in thee, is what causes me most distress and what I desire most to punish with my own hands, for were any other instrument of punishment employed my error might become perhaps more widely known; but before I do so, in my death I mean to inflict death, and take with me one that will fully satisfy my longing for the revenge I hope for and have; for I shall see, wheresoever it may be that I go, the penalty awarded by inflexible, unswerving justice on him who has placed me in a position so desperate."
As she uttered these words, with incredible energy and swiftness she flew upon Lothario with the naked dagger, so manifestly bent on burying it in his breast that he was almost uncertain whether these demonstrations were real or feigned, for he was obliged to have recourse to all his skill and strength to prevent her from striking him; and with such reality did she act this strange farce and mystification that, to give it a colour of truth, she determined to stain it with her own blood; for perceiving, or pretending, that she could not wound Lothario, she said, "Fate, it seems, will not grant my just desire complete satisfaction, but it will not be able to keep me from satisfying it partially at least;" and making an effort to free the hand with the dagger which Lothario held in his grasp, she released it, and directing the point to a place where it could not inflict a deep wound, she plunged it into her left side high up close to the shoulder, and then allowed herself to fall to the ground as if in a faint.
Leonela and Lothario stood amazed and astounded at the catastrophe, and seeing Camilla stretched on the ground and bathed in her blood they were still uncertain as to the true nature of the act. Lothario, terrified and breathless, ran in haste to pluck out the dagger; but when he saw how slight the wound was he was relieved of his fears and once more admired the subtlety, coolness, and ready wit of the fair Camilla; and the better to support the part he had to play he began to utter profuse and doleful lamentations over her body as if she were dead, invoking maledictions not only on himself but also on him who had been the means of placing him in such a position: and knowing that his friend Anselmo heard him he spoke in such a way as to make a listener feel much more pity for him than for Camilla, even though he supposed her dead. Leonela took her up in her arms and laid her on the bed, entreating Lothario to go in quest of some one to attend to her wound in secret, and at the same time asking his advice and opinion as to what they should say to Anselmo about his lady's wound if he should chance to return before it was healed. He replied they might say what they liked, for he was not in a state to give advice that would be of any use; all he could tell her was to try and stanch the blood, as he was going where he should never more be seen; and with every appearance of deep grief and sorrow he left the house; but when he found himself alone, and where there was nobody to see him, he crossed himself unceasingly, lost in wonder at the adroitness of Camilla and the consistent acting of Leonela. He reflected how convinced Anselmo would be that he had a second Portia for a wife, and he looked forward anxiously to meeting him in order to rejoice together over falsehood and truth the most craftily veiled that could be imagined.