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Miqeul de Cervantes >> Don Quixote (page 34)


"But in the midst of his conversation he stopped and becamesilent, keeping his eyes fixed upon the ground for some time, duringwhich we stood still waiting anxiously to see what would come ofthis abstraction; and with no little pity, for from his behaviour, nowstaring at the ground with fixed gaze and eyes wide open withoutmoving an eyelid, again closing them, compressing his lips and raisinghis eyebrows, we could perceive plainly that a fit of madness ofsome kind had come upon him; and before long he showed that what weimagined was the truth, for he arose in a fury from the ground wherehe had thrown himself, and attacked the first he found near him withsuch rage and fierceness that if we had not dragged him off him, hewould have beaten or bitten him to death, all the while exclaiming,'Oh faithless Fernando, here, here shalt thou pay the penalty of thewrong thou hast done me; these hands shall tear out that heart ofthine, abode and dwelling of all iniquity, but of deceit and fraudabove all; and to these he added other words all in effectupbraiding this Fernando and charging him with treachery andfaithlessness.

"We forced him to release his hold with no little difficulty, andwithout another word he left us, and rushing off plunged in amongthese brakes and brambles, so as to make it impossible for us tofollow him; from this we suppose that madness comes upon him from timeto time, and that some one called Fernando must have done him awrong of a grievous nature such as the condition to which it hadbrought him seemed to show. All this has been since then confirmedon those occasions, and they have been many, on which he has crossedour path, at one time to beg the shepherds to give him some of thefood they carry, at another to take it from them by force; for whenthere is a fit of madness upon him, even though the shepherds offer itfreely, he will not accept it but snatches it from them by dint ofblows; but when he is in his senses he begs it for the love of God,courteously and civilly, and receives it with many thanks and not afew tears. And to tell you the truth, sirs," continued the goatherd,"it was yesterday that we resolved, I and four of the lads, two ofthem our servants, and the other two friends of mine, to go insearch of him until we find him, and when we do to take him, whetherby force or of his own consent, to the town of Almodovar, which iseight leagues from this, and there strive to cure him (if indeed hismalady admits of a cure), or learn when he is in his senses who he is,and if he has relatives to whom we may give notice of hismisfortune. This, sirs, is all I can say in answer to what you haveasked me; and be sure that the owner of the articles you found is hewhom you saw pass by with such nimbleness and so naked."

For Don Quixote had already described how he had seen the man gobounding along the mountain side, and he was now filled with amazementat what he heard from the goatherd, and more eager than ever todiscover who the unhappy madman was; and in his heart he resolved,as he had done before, to search for him all over the mountain, notleaving a corner or cave unexamined until he had found him. But chancearranged matters better than he expected or hoped, for at that verymoment, in a gorge on the mountain that opened where they stood, theyouth he wished to find made his appearance, coming along talking tohimself in a way that would have been unintelligible near at hand,much more at a distance. His garb was what has been described, savethat as he drew near, Don Quixote perceived that a tattered doubletwhich he wore was amber-tanned, from which he concluded that one whowore such garments could not be of very low rank.

Approaching them, the youth greeted them in a harsh and hoarse voicebut with great courtesy. Don Quixote returned his salutation withequal politeness, and dismounting from Rocinante advanced withwell-bred bearing and grace to embrace him, and held him for some timeclose in his arms as if he had known him for a long time. The other,whom we may call the Ragged One of the Sorry Countenance, as DonQuixote was of the Rueful, after submitting to the embrace pushedhim back a little and, placing his hands on Don Quixote's shoulders,stood gazing at him as if seeking to see whether he knew him, not lessamazed, perhaps, at the sight of the face, figure, and armour of DonQuixote than Don Quixote was at the sight of him. To be brief, thefirst to speak after embracing was the Ragged One, and he said whatwill be told farther on.

CHAPTER XXIV

IN WHICH IS CONTINUED THE ADVENTURE OF THE SIERRA MORENA

The history relates that it was with the greatest attention DonQuixote listened to the ragged knight of the Sierra, who began bysaying:

"Of a surety, senor, whoever you are, for I know you not, I thankyou for the proofs of kindness and courtesy you have shown me, andwould I were in a condition to requite with something more thangood-will that which you have displayed towards me in the cordialreception you have given me; but my fate does not afford me anyother means of returning kindnesses done me save the hearty desireto repay them."

"Mine," replied Don Quixote, "is to be of service to you, so much sothat I had resolved not to quit these mountains until I had found you,and learned of you whether there is any kind of relief to be found forthat sorrow under which from the strangeness of your life you seemto labour; and to search for you with all possible diligence, ifsearch had been necessary. And if your misfortune should prove to beone of those that refuse admission to any sort of consolation, itwas my purpose to join you in lamenting and mourning over it, so faras I could; for it is still some comfort in misfortune to find one whocan feel for it. And if my good intentions deserve to beacknowledged with any kind of courtesy, I entreat you, senor, bythat which I perceive you possess in so high a degree, and likewiseconjure you by whatever you love or have loved best in life, to tellme who you are and the cause that has brought you to live or die inthese solitudes like a brute beast, dwelling among them in a manner soforeign to your condition as your garb and appearance show. And Iswear," added Don Quixote, "by the order of knighthood which I havereceived, and by my vocation of knight-errant, if you gratify me inthis, to serve you with all the zeal my calling demands of me,either in relieving your misfortune if it admits of relief, or injoining you in lamenting it as I promised to do."

The Knight of the Thicket, hearing him of the Rueful Countenancetalk in this strain, did nothing but stare at him, and stare at himagain, and again survey him from head to foot; and when he hadthoroughly examined him, he said to him:

"If you have anything to give me to eat, for God's sake give itme, and after I have eaten I will do all you ask in acknowledgmentof the goodwill you have displayed towards me."

Sancho from his sack, and the goatherd from his pouch, furnished theRagged One with the means of appeasing his hunger, and what theygave him he ate like a half-witted being, so hastily that he took notime between mouthfuls, gorging rather than swallowing; and while heate neither he nor they who observed him uttered a word. As soon as hehad done he made signs to them to follow him, which they did, and heled them to a green plot which lay a little farther off round thecorner of a rock. On reaching it he stretched himself upon thegrass, and the others did the same, all keeping silence, until theRagged One, settling himself in his place, said:

"If it is your wish, sirs, that I should disclose in a few words thesurpassing extent of my misfortunes, you must promise not to break thethread of my sad story with any question or other interruption, forthe instant you do so the tale I tell will come to an end."

These words of the Ragged One reminded Don Quixote of the tale hissquire had told him, when he failed to keep count of the goats thathad crossed the river and the story remained unfinished; but to returnto the Ragged One, he went on to say:

"I give you this warning because I wish to pass briefly over thestory of my misfortunes, for recalling them to memory only serves toadd fresh ones, and the less you question me the sooner shall I makean end of the recital, though I shall not omit to relate anything ofimportance in order fully to satisfy your curiosity."

Don Quixote gave the promise for himself and the others, and withthis assurance he began as follows:

"My name is Cardenio, my birthplace one of the best cities of thisAndalusia, my family noble, my parents rich, my misfortune so greatthat my parents must have wept and my family grieved over it withoutbeing able by their wealth to lighten it; for the gifts of fortune cando little to relieve reverses sent by Heaven. In that same countrythere was a heaven in which love had placed all the glory I coulddesire; such was the beauty of Luscinda, a damsel as noble and as richas I, but of happier fortunes, and of less firmness than was due to soworthy a passion as mine. This Luscinda I loved, worshipped, andadored from my earliest and tenderest years, and she loved me in allthe innocence and sincerity of childhood. Our parents were aware ofour feelings, and were not sorry to perceive them, for they sawclearly that as they ripened they must lead at last to a marriagebetween us, a thing that seemed almost prearranged by the equalityof our families and wealth. We grew up, and with our growth grew thelove between us, so that the father of Luscinda felt bound forpropriety's sake to refuse me admission to his house, in thisperhaps imitating the parents of that Thisbe so celebrated by thepoets, and this refusal but added love to love and flame to flame; forthough they enforced silence upon our tongues they could not impose itupon our pens, which can make known the heart's secrets to a loved onemore freely than tongues; for many a time the presence of the objectof love shakes the firmest will and strikes dumb the boldest tongue.Ah heavens! how many letters did I write her, and how many daintymodest replies did I receive! how many ditties and love-songs did Icompose in which my heart declared and made known its feelings,described its ardent longings, revelled in its recollections anddallied with its desires! At length growing impatient and feeling myheart languishing with longing to see her, I resolved to put intoexecution and carry out what seemed to me the best mode of winningmy desired and merited reward, to ask her of her father for mylawful wife, which I did. To this his answer was that he thanked mefor the disposition I showed to do honour to him and to regardmyself as honoured by the bestowal of his treasure; but that as myfather was alive it was his by right to make this demand, for if itwere not in accordance with his full will and pleasure, Luscinda wasnot to be taken or given by stealth. I thanked him for his kindness,reflecting that there was reason in what he said, and that my fatherwould assent to it as soon as I should tell him, and with that viewI went the very same instant to let him know what my desires were.When I entered the room where he was I found him with an open letterin his hand, which, before I could utter a word, he gave me, saying,'By this letter thou wilt see, Cardenio, the disposition the DukeRicardo has to serve thee.' This Duke Ricardo, as you, sirs,probably know already, is a grandee of Spain who has his seat in thebest part of this Andalusia. I took and read the letter, which wascouched in terms so flattering that even I myself felt it would bewrong in my father not to comply with the request the duke made in it,which was that he would send me immediately to him, as he wished me tobecome the companion, not servant, of his eldest son, and would takeupon himself the charge of placing me in a position corresponding tothe esteem in which he held me. On reading the letter my voicefailed me, and still more when I heard my father say, 'Two dayshence thou wilt depart, Cardenio, in accordance with the duke'swish, and give thanks to God who is opening a road to thee by whichthou mayest attain what I know thou dost deserve; and to these wordshe added others of fatherly counsel. The time for my departurearrived; I spoke one night to Luscinda, I told her all that hadoccurred, as I did also to her father, entreating him to allow somedelay, and to defer the disposal of her hand until I should see whatthe Duke Ricardo sought of me: he gave me the promise, and sheconfirmed it with vows and swoonings unnumbered. Finally, Ipresented myself to the duke, and was received and treated by him sokindly that very soon envy began to do its work, the old servantsgrowing envious of me, and regarding the duke's inclination to show mefavour as an injury to themselves. But the one to whom my arrival gavethe greatest pleasure was the duke's second son, Fernando by name, agallant youth, of noble, generous, and amorous disposition, who verysoon made so intimate a friend of me that it was remarked byeverybody; for though the elder was attached to me, and showed mekindness, he did not carry his affectionate treatment to the samelength as Don Fernando. It so happened, then, that as betweenfriends no secret remains unshared, and as the favour I enjoyed withDon Fernando had grown into friendship, he made all his thoughts knownto me, and in particular a love affair which troubled his mind alittle. He was deeply in love with a peasant girl, a vassal of hisfather's, the daughter of wealthy parents, and herself so beautiful,modest, discreet, and virtuous, that no one who knew her was able todecide in which of these respects she was most highly gifted or mostexcelled. The attractions of the fair peasant raised the passion ofDon Fernando to such a point that, in order to gain his object andovercome her virtuous resolutions, he determined to pledge his word toher to become her husband, for to attempt it in any other way was toattempt an impossibility. Bound to him as I was by friendship, Istrove by the best arguments and the most forcible examples I couldthink of to restrain and dissuade him from such a course; butperceiving I produced no effect I resolved to make the Duke Ricardo,his father, acquainted with the matter; but Don Fernando, beingsharp-witted and shrewd, foresaw and apprehended this, perceiving thatby my duty as a good servant I was bound not to keep concealed a thingso much opposed to the honour of my lord the duke; and so, tomislead and deceive me, he told me he could find no better way ofeffacing from his mind the beauty that so enslaved him than byabsenting himself for some months, and that he wished the absence tobe effected by our going, both of us, to my father's house under thepretence, which he would make to the duke, of going to see and buysome fine horses that there were in my city, which produces the bestin the world. When I heard him say so, even if his resolution hadnot been so good a one I should have hailed it as one of thehappiest that could be imagined, prompted by my affection, seeing whata favourable chance and opportunity it offered me of returning tosee my Luscinda. With this thought and wish I commended his idea andencouraged his design, advising him to put it into execution asquickly as possible, as, in truth, absence produced its effect inspite of the most deeply rooted feelings. But, as afterwards appeared,when he said this to me he had already enjoyed the peasant girlunder the title of husband, and was waiting for an opportunity ofmaking it known with safety to himself, being in dread of what hisfather the duke would do when he came to know of his folly. Ithappened, then, that as with young men love is for the most partnothing more than appetite, which, as its final object is enjoyment,comes to an end on obtaining it, and that which seemed to be lovetakes to flight, as it cannot pass the limit fixed by nature, whichfixes no limit to true love- what I mean is that after Don Fernandohad enjoyed this peasant girl his passion subsided and his eagernesscooled, and if at first he feigned a wish to absent himself in orderto cure his love, he was now in reality anxious to go to avoid keepinghis promise.

Title: Don Quixote
Author: Miqeul de Cervantes
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