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Miqeul de Cervantes >> Don Quixote (page 56)


They gazed at one another without speaking, Dorothea at DonFernando, Don Fernando at Cardenio, Cardenio at Luscinda, and Luscindaat Cardenio. The first to break silence was Luscinda, who thusaddressed Don Fernando: "Leave me, Senor Don Fernando, for the sake ofwhat you owe to yourself; if no other reason will induce you, leave meto cling to the wall of which I am the ivy, to the support fromwhich neither your importunities, nor your threats, nor your promises,nor your gifts have been able to detach me. See how Heaven, by waysstrange and hidden from our sight, has brought me face to face with mytrue husband; and well you know by dear-bought experience that deathalone will be able to efface him from my memory. May this plaindeclaration, then, lead you, as you can do nothing else, to turnyour love into rage, your affection into resentment, and so to take mylife; for if I yield it up in the presence of my beloved husband Icount it well bestowed; it may be by my death he will be convincedthat I kept my faith to him to the last moment of life."

Meanwhile Dorothea had come to herself, and had heard Luscinda'swords, by means of which she divined who she was; but seeing thatDon Fernando did not yet release her or reply to her, summoning up herresolution as well as she could she rose and knelt at his feet, andwith a flood of bright and touching tears addressed him thus:

"If, my lord, the beams of that sun that thou holdest eclipsed inthine arms did not dazzle and rob thine eyes of sight thou wouldsthave seen by this time that she who kneels at thy feet is, so longas thou wilt have it so, the unhappy and unfortunate Dorothea. I amthat lowly peasant girl whom thou in thy goodness or for thypleasure wouldst raise high enough to call herself thine; I am she whoin the seclusion of innocence led a contented life until at thevoice of thy importunity, and thy true and tender passion, as itseemed, she opened the gates of her modesty and surrendered to theethe keys of her liberty; a gift received by thee but thanklessly, asis clearly shown by my forced retreat to the place where thou dostfind me, and by thy appearance under the circumstances in which Isee thee. Nevertheless, I would not have thee suppose that I have comehere driven by my shame; it is only grief and sorrow at seeingmyself forgotten by thee that have led me. It was thy will to makeme thine, and thou didst so follow thy will, that now, even thoughthou repentest, thou canst not help being mine. Bethink thee, my lord,the unsurpassable affection I bear thee may compensate for thebeauty and noble birth for which thou wouldst desert me. Thou canstnot be the fair Luscinda's because thou art mine, nor can she be thinebecause she is Cardenio's; and it will be easier, remember, to bendthy will to love one who adores thee, than to lead one to love theewho abhors thee now. Thou didst address thyself to my simplicity, thoudidst lay siege to my virtue, thou wert not ignorant of my station,well dost thou know how I yielded wholly to thy will; there is noground or reason for thee to plead deception, and if it be so, as itis, and if thou art a Christian as thou art a gentleman, why dost thouby such subterfuges put off making me as happy at last as thou didstat first? And if thou wilt not have me for what I am, thy true andlawful wife, at least take and accept me as thy slave, for so longas I am thine I will count myself happy and fortunate. Do not bydeserting me let my shame become the talk of the gossips in thestreets; make not the old age of my parents miserable; for the loyalservices they as faithful vassals have ever rendered thine are notdeserving of such a return; and if thou thinkest it will debase thyblood to mingle it with mine, reflect that there is little or nonobility in the world that has not travelled the same road, and thatin illustrious lineages it is not the woman's blood that is ofaccount; and, moreover, that true nobility consists in virtue, andif thou art wanting in that, refusing me what in justice thou owestme, then even I have higher claims to nobility than thine. To makean end, senor, these are my last words to thee: whether thou wilt,or wilt not, I am thy wife; witness thy words, which must not andought not to be false, if thou dost pride thyself on that for wantof which thou scornest me; witness the pledge which thou didst giveme, and witness Heaven, which thou thyself didst call to witness thepromise thou hadst made me; and if all this fail, thy own consciencewill not fail to lift up its silent voice in the midst of all thygaiety, and vindicate the truth of what I say and mar thy highestpleasure and enjoyment."

All this and more the injured Dorothea delivered with such earnestfeeling and such tears that all present, even those who came withDon Fernando, were constrained to join her in them. Don Fernandolistened to her without replying, until, ceasing to speak, she gaveway to such sobs and sighs that it must have been a heart of brassthat was not softened by the sight of so great sorrow. Luscindastood regarding her with no less compassion for her sufferings thanadmiration for her intelligence and beauty, and would have gone to herto say some words of comfort to her, but was prevented by DonFernando's grasp which held her fast. He, overwhelmed with confusionand astonishment, after regarding Dorothea for some moments with afixed gaze, opened his arms, and, releasing Luscinda, exclaimed:

"Thou hast conquered, fair Dorothea, thou hast conquered, for itis impossible to have the heart to deny the united force of so manytruths."

Luscinda in her feebleness was on the point of falling to the groundwhen Don Fernando released her, but Cardenio, who stood near, havingretreated behind Don Fernando to escape recognition, casting fearaside and regardless of what might happen, ran forward to support her,and said as he clasped her in his arms, "If Heaven in its compassionis willing to let thee rest at last, mistress of my heart, true,constant, and fair, nowhere canst thou rest more safely than inthese arms that now receive thee, and received thee before whenfortune permitted me to call thee mine."

At these words Luscinda looked up at Cardenio, at first beginning torecognise him by his voice and then satisfying herself by her eyesthat it was he, and hardly knowing what she did, and heedless of allconsiderations of decorum, she flung her arms around his neck andpressing her face close to his, said, "Yes, my dear lord, you arethe true master of this your slave, even though adverse fate interposeagain, and fresh dangers threaten this life that hangs on yours."

A strange sight was this for Don Fernando and those that stoodaround, filled with surprise at an incident so unlooked for.Dorothea fancied that Don Fernando changed colour and looked as thoughhe meant to take vengeance on Cardenio, for she observed him put hishand to his sword; and the instant the idea struck her, with wonderfulquickness she clasped him round the knees, and kissing them andholding him so as to prevent his moving, she said, while her tearscontinued to flow, "What is it thou wouldst do, my only refuge, inthis unforeseen event? Thou hast thy wife at thy feet, and she whomthou wouldst have for thy wife is in the arms of her husband:reflect whether it will be right for thee, whether it will be possiblefor thee to undo what Heaven has done, or whether it will bebecoming in thee to seek to raise her to be thy mate who in spite ofevery obstacle, and strong in her truth and constancy, is before thineeyes, bathing with the tears of love the face and bosom of herlawful husband. For God's sake I entreat of thee, for thine own Iimplore thee, let not this open manifestation rouse thy anger; butrather so calm it as to allow these two lovers to live in peace andquiet without any interference from thee so long as Heaven permitsthem; and in so doing thou wilt prove the generosity of thy loftynoble spirit, and the world shall see that with thee reason has moreinfluence than passion."

All the time Dorothea was speaking, Cardenio, though he heldLuscinda in his arms, never took his eyes off Don Fernando,determined, if he saw him make any hostile movement, to try and defendhimself and resist as best he could all who might assail him, thoughit should cost him his life. But now Don Fernando's friends, as wellas the curate and the barber, who had been present all the while,not forgetting the worthy Sancho Panza, ran forward and gathered roundDon Fernando, entreating him to have regard for the tears of Dorothea,and not suffer her reasonable hopes to be disappointed, since, as theyfirmly believed, what she said was but the truth; and bidding himobserve that it was not, as it might seem, by accident, but by aspecial disposition of Providence that they had all met in a placewhere no one could have expected a meeting. And the curate bade himremember that only death could part Luscinda from Cardenio; thateven if some sword were to separate them they would think theirdeath most happy; and that in a case that admitted of no remedy hiswisest course was, by conquering and putting a constraint uponhimself, to show a generous mind, and of his own accord suffer thesetwo to enjoy the happiness Heaven had granted them. He bade him,too, turn his eyes upon the beauty of Dorothea and he would see thatfew if any could equal much less excel her; while to that beautyshould be added her modesty and the surpassing love she bore him.But besides all this, he reminded him that if he prided himself onbeing a gentleman and a Christian, he could not do otherwise than keephis plighted word; and that in doing so he would obey God and meet theapproval of all sensible people, who know and recognised it to bethe privilege of beauty, even in one of humble birth, providedvirtue accompany it, to be able to raise itself to the level of anyrank, without any slur upon him who places it upon an equality withhimself; and furthermore that when the potent sway of passionasserts itself, so long as there be no mixture of sin in it, he is notto be blamed who gives way to it.

To be brief, they added to these such other forcible argumentsthat Don Fernando's manly heart, being after all nourished by nobleblood, was touched, and yielded to the truth which, even had he wishedit, he could not gainsay; and he showed his submission, and acceptanceof the good advice that had been offered to him, by stooping downand embracing Dorothea, saying to her, "Rise, dear lady, it is notright that what I hold in my heart should be kneeling at my feet;and if until now I have shown no sign of what I own, it may havebeen by Heaven's decree in order that, seeing the constancy with whichyou love me, I may learn to value you as you deserve. What I entreatof you is that you reproach me not with my transgression andgrievous wrong-doing; for the same cause and force that drove me tomake you mine impelled me to struggle against being yours; and toprove this, turn and look at the eyes of the now happy Luscinda, andyou will see in them an excuse for all my errors: and as she has foundand gained the object of her desires, and I have found in you whatsatisfies all my wishes, may she live in peace and contentment as manyhappy years with her Cardenio, as on my knees I pray Heaven to allowme to live with my Dorothea;" and with these words he once moreembraced her and pressed his face to hers with so much tenderness thathe had to take great heed to keep his tears from completing theproof of his love and repentance in the sight of all. Not so Luscinda,and Cardenio, and almost all the others, for they shed so manytears, some in their own happiness, some at that of the others, thatone would have supposed a heavy calamity had fallen upon them all.Even Sancho Panza was weeping; though afterwards he said he onlywept because he saw that Dorothea was not as he fancied the queenMicomicona, of whom he expected such great favours. Their wonder aswell as their weeping lasted some time, and then Cardenio and Luscindawent and fell on their knees before Don Fernando, returning him thanksfor the favour he had rendered them in language so grateful that heknew not how to answer them, and raising them up embraced them withevery mark of affection and courtesy.

He then asked Dorothea how she had managed to reach a place so farremoved from her own home, and she in a few fitting words told allthat she had previously related to Cardenio, with which Don Fernandoand his companions were so delighted that they wished the story hadbeen longer; so charmingly did Dorothea describe her misadventures.When she had finished Don Fernando recounted what had befallen himin the city after he had found in Luscinda's bosom the paper inwhich she declared that she was Cardenio's wife, and never could behis. He said he meant to kill her, and would have done so had he notbeen prevented by her parents, and that he quitted the house full ofrage and shame, and resolved to avenge himself when a moreconvenient opportunity should offer. The next day he learned thatLuscinda had disappeared from her father's house, and that no onecould tell whither she had gone. Finally, at the end of some months heascertained that she was in a convent and meant to remain there allthe rest of her life, if she were not to share it with Cardenio; andas soon as he had learned this, taking these three gentlemen as hiscompanions, he arrived at the place where she was, but avoidedspeaking to her, fearing that if it were known he was there stricterprecautions would be taken in the convent; and watching a time whenthe porter's lodge was open he left two to guard the gate, and heand the other entered the convent in quest of Luscinda, whom theyfound in the cloisters in conversation with one of the nuns, andcarrying her off without giving her time to resist, they reached aplace with her where they provided themselves with what theyrequired for taking her away; all which they were able to do incomplete safety, as the convent was in the country at a considerabledistance from the city. He added that when Luscinda found herself inhis power she lost all consciousness, and after returning to herselfdid nothing but weep and sigh without speaking a word; and thus insilence and tears they reached that inn, which for him was reachingheaven where all the mischances of earth are over and at an end.

CHAPTER XXXVII

IN WHICH IS CONTINUED THE STORY OF THE FAMOUS PRINCESS MICOMICONA,WITH OTHER DROLL ADVENTURES

Title: Don Quixote
Author: Miqeul de Cervantes
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