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Miqeul de Cervantes >> Don Quixote (page 111)


At length the damsel with the jug returned and they made an end ofwashing Don Quixote, and the one who carried the towels verydeliberately wiped him and dried him; and all four together making hima profound obeisance and curtsey, they were about to go, when theduke, lest Don Quixote should see through the joke, called out tothe one with the basin saying, "Come and wash me, and take care thatthere is water enough." The girl, sharp-witted and prompt, came andplaced the basin for the duke as she had done for Don Quixote, andthey soon had him well soaped and washed, and having wiped him drythey made their obeisance and retired. It appeared afterwards that theduke had sworn that if they had not washed him as they had Don Quixotehe would have punished them for their impudence, which they adroitlyatoned for by soaping him as well.

Sancho observed the ceremony of the washing very attentively, andsaid to himself, "God bless me, if it were only the custom in thiscountry to wash squires' beards too as well as knights'. For by Godand upon my soul I want it badly; and if they gave me a scrape ofthe razor besides I'd take it as a still greater kindness."

"What are you saying to yourself, Sancho?" asked the duchess.

"I was saying, senora," he replied, "that in the courts of otherprinces, when the cloth is taken away, I have always heard say theygive water for the hands, but not lye for the beard; and that shows itis good to live long that you may see much; to be sure, they say toothat he who lives a long life must undergo much evil, though toundergo a washing of that sort is pleasure rather than pain."

"Don't be uneasy, friend Sancho," said the duchess; "I will takecare that my damsels wash you, and even put you in the tub ifnecessary."

"I'll be content with the beard," said Sancho, "at any rate forthe present; and as for the future, God has decreed what is to be."

"Attend to worthy Sancho's request, seneschal," said the duchess,"and do exactly what he wishes."

The seneschal replied that Senor Sancho should be obeyed ineverything; and with that he went away to dinner and took Sancho alongwith him, while the duke and duchess and Don Quixote remained at tablediscussing a great variety of things, but all bearing on the callingof arms and knight-errantry.

The duchess begged Don Quixote, as he seemed to have a retentivememory, to describe and portray to her the beauty and features ofthe lady Dulcinea del Toboso, for, judging by what fame trumpetedabroad of her beauty, she felt sure she must be the fairest creaturein the world, nay, in all La Mancha.

Don Quixote sighed on hearing the duchess's request, and said, "If Icould pluck out my heart, and lay it on a plate on this table herebefore your highness's eyes, it would spare my tongue the pain oftelling what can hardly be thought of, for in it your excellence wouldsee her portrayed in full. But why should I attempt to depict anddescribe in detail, and feature by feature, the beauty of the peerlessDulcinea, the burden being one worthy of other shoulders than mine, anenterprise wherein the pencils of Parrhasius, Timantes, and Apelles,and the graver of Lysippus ought to be employed, to paint it inpictures and carve it in marble and bronze, and Ciceronian andDemosthenian eloquence to sound its praises?"

"What does Demosthenian mean, Senor Don Quixote?" said theduchess; "it is a word I never heard in all my life."

"Demosthenian eloquence," said Don Quixote, "means the eloquenceof Demosthenes, as Ciceronian means that of Cicero, who were the twomost eloquent orators in the world."

"True," said the duke; "you must have lost your wits to ask such aquestion. Nevertheless, Senor Don Quixote would greatly gratify usif he would depict her to us; for never fear, even in an outline orsketch she will be something to make the fairest envious."

"I would do so certainly," said Don Quixote, "had she not beenblurred to my mind's eye by the misfortune that fell upon her ashort time since, one of such a nature that I am more ready to weepover it than to describe it. For your highnesses must know that, goinga few days back to kiss her hands and receive her benediction,approbation, and permission for this third sally, I found heraltogether a different being from the one I sought; I found herenchanted and changed from a princess into a peasant, from fair tofoul, from an angel into a devil, from fragrant to pestiferous, fromrefined to clownish, from a dignified lady into a jumping tomboy, and,in a word, from Dulcinea del Toboso into a coarse Sayago wench."

"God bless me!" said the duke aloud at this, "who can have donethe world such an injury? Who can have robbed it of the beauty thatgladdened it, of the grace and gaiety that charmed it, of themodesty that shed a lustre upon it?"

"Who?" replied Don Quixote; "who could it be but some malignantenchanter of the many that persecute me out of envy- that accursedrace born into the world to obscure and bring to naught theachievements of the good, and glorify and exalt the deeds of thewicked? Enchanters have persecuted me, enchanters persecute mestill, and enchanters will continue to persecute me until they havesunk me and my lofty chivalry in the deep abyss of oblivion; andthey injure and wound me where they know I feel it most. For todeprive a knight-errant of his lady is to deprive him of the eyes hesees with, of the sun that gives him light, of the food whereby helives. Many a time before have I said it, and I say it now oncemore, a knight-errant without a lady is like a tree without leaves,a building without a foundation, or a shadow without the body thatcauses it."

"There is no denying it," said the duchess; "but still, if we are tobelieve the history of Don Quixote that has come out here latelywith general applause, it is to be inferred from it, if I mistake not,that you never saw the lady Dulcinea, and that the said lady isnothing in the world but an imaginary lady, one that you yourselfbegot and gave birth to in your brain, and adorned with whatevercharms and perfections you chose."

"There is a good deal to be said on that point," said Don Quixote;"God knows whether there he any Dulcinea or not in the world, orwhether she is imaginary or not imaginary; these are things theproof of which must not be pushed to extreme lengths. I have notbegotten nor given birth to my lady, though I behold her as sheneeds must be, a lady who contains in herself all the qualities tomake her famous throughout the world, beautiful without blemish,dignified without haughtiness, tender and yet modest, gracious fromcourtesy and courteous from good breeding, and lastly, of exaltedlineage, because beauty shines forth and excels with a higher degreeof perfection upon good blood than in the fair of lowly birth."

"That is true," said the duke; "but Senor Don Quixote will give meleave to say what I am constrained to say by the story of his exploitsthat I have read, from which it is to be inferred that, granting thereis a Dulcinea in El Toboso, or out of it, and that she is in thehighest degree beautiful as you have described her to us, as regardsthe loftiness of her lineage she is not on a par with the Orianas,Alastrajareas, Madasimas, or others of that sort, with whom, as youwell know, the histories abound."

"To that I may reply," said Don Quixote, "that Dulcinea is thedaughter of her own works, and that virtues rectify blood, and thatlowly virtue is more to be regarded and esteemed than exalted vice.Dulcinea, besides, has that within her that may raise her to be acrowned and sceptred queen; for the merit of a fair and virtuous womanis capable of performing greater miracles; and virtually, though notformally, she has in herself higher fortunes."

"I protest, Senor Don Quixote," said the duchess, "that in all yousay, you go most cautiously and lead in hand, as the saying is;henceforth I will believe myself, and I will take care that everyonein my house believes, even my lord the duke if needs be, that there isa Dulcinea in El Toboso, and that she is living to-day, and that sheis beautiful and nobly born and deserves to have such a knight asSenor Don Quixote in her service, and that is the highest praisethat it is in my power to give her or that I can think of. But Icannot help entertaining a doubt, and having a certain grudgeagainst Sancho Panza; the doubt is this, that the aforesaid historydeclares that the said Sancho Panza, when he carried a letter onyour worship's behalf to the said lady Dulcinea, found her sifting asack of wheat; and more by token it says it was red wheat; a thingwhich makes me doubt the loftiness of her lineage."

To this Don Quixote made answer, "Senora, your highness must knowthat everything or almost everything that happens me transcends theordinary limits of what happens to other knights-errant; whether it hethat it is directed by the inscrutable will of destiny, or by themalice of some jealous enchanter. Now it is an established fact thatall or most famous knights-errant have some special gift, one thatof being proof against enchantment, another that of being made of suchinvulnerable flesh that he cannot be wounded, as was the famousRoland, one of the twelve peers of France, of whom it is relatedthat he could not be wounded except in the sole of his left foot,and that it must be with the point of a stout pin and not with anyother sort of weapon whatever; and so, when Bernardo del Carpio slewhim at Roncesvalles, finding that he could not wound him with steel,he lifted him up from the ground in his arms and strangled him,calling to mind seasonably the death which Hercules inflicted onAntaeus, the fierce giant that they say was the son of Terra. Iwould infer from what I have mentioned that perhaps I may have somegift of this kind, not that of being invulnerable, becauseexperience has many times proved to me that I am of tender flesh andnot at all impenetrable; nor that of being proof againstenchantment, for I have already seen myself thrust into a cage, inwhich all the world would not have been able to confine me except byforce of enchantments. But as I delivered myself from that one, I aminclined to believe that there is no other that can hurt me; and so,these enchanters, seeing that they cannot exert their vile craftagainst my person, revenge themselves on what I love most, and seek torob me of life by maltreating that of Dulcinea in whom I live; andtherefore I am convinced that when my squire carried my message toher, they changed her into a common peasant girl, engaged in such amean occupation as sifting wheat; I have already said, however, thatthat wheat was not red wheat, nor wheat at all, but grains of orientpearl. And as a proof of all this, I must tell your highnesses that,coming to El Toboso a short time back, I was altogether unable todiscover the palace of Dulcinea; and that the next day, though Sancho,my squire, saw her in her own proper shape, which is the fairest inthe world, to me she appeared to be a coarse, ill-favoured farm-wench,and by no means a well-spoken one, she who is propriety itself. Andso, as I am not and, so far as one can judge, cannot be enchanted, sheit is that is enchanted, that is smitten, that is altered, changed,and transformed; in her have my enemies revenged themselves upon me,and for her shall I live in ceaseless tears, until I see her in herpristine state. I have mentioned this lest anybody should mind whatSancho said about Dulcinea's winnowing or sifting; for, as theychanged her to me, it is no wonder if they changed her to him.Dulcinea is illustrious and well-born, and of one of the gentlefamilies of El Toboso, which are many, ancient, and good. Therein,most assuredly, not small is the share of the peerless Dulcinea,through whom her town will be famous and celebrated in ages to come,as Troy was through Helen, and Spain through La Cava, though with abetter title and tradition. For another thing; I would have yourgraces understand that Sancho Panza is one of the drollest squiresthat ever served knight-errant; sometimes there is a simplicityabout him so acute that it is an amusement to try and make out whetherhe is simple or sharp; he has mischievous tricks that stamp him rogue,and blundering ways that prove him a booby; he doubts everything andbelieves everything; when I fancy he is on the point of coming downheadlong from sheer stupidity, he comes out with something shrewd thatsends him up to the skies. After all, I would not exchange him foranother squire, though I were given a city to boot, and therefore I amin doubt whether it will be well to send him to the government yourhighness has bestowed upon him; though I perceive in him a certainaptitude for the work of governing, so that, with a little trimming ofhis understanding, he would manage any government as easily as theking does his taxes; and moreover, we know already ample experiencethat it does not require much cleverness or much learning to be agovernor, for there are a hundred round about us that scarcely knowhow to read, and govern like gerfalcons. The main point is that theyshould have good intentions and be desirous of doing right in allthings, for they will never be at a loss for persons to advise anddirect them in what they have to do, like those knight-governorswho, being no lawyers, pronounce sentences with the aid of anassessor. My advice to him will be to take no bribe and surrender noright, and I have some other little matters in reserve, that shallbe produced in due season for Sancho's benefit and the advantage ofthe island he is to govern."

The duke, duchess, and Don Quixote had reached this point in theirconversation, when they heard voices and a great hubbub in the palace,and Sancho burst abruptly into the room all glowing with anger, with astraining-cloth by way of a bib, and followed by several servants, or,more properly speaking, kitchen-boys and other underlings, one of whomcarried a small trough full of water, that from its colour andimpurity was plainly dishwater. The one with the trough pursued himand followed him everywhere he went, endeavouring with the utmostpersistence to thrust it under his chin, while another kitchen-boyseemed anxious to wash his beard.

Title: Don Quixote
Author: Miqeul de Cervantes
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