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Miqeul de Cervantes >> Don Quixote (page 99)


"Nor needst thou," said Don Quixote, "but I cannot conceive ormake out how it is that, the fear of God being the beginning ofwisdom, thou, who art more afraid of a lizard than of him, knowestso much."

"Pass judgment on your chivalries, senor," returned Sancho, "anddon't set yourself up to judge of other men's fears or braveries,for I am as good a fearer of God as my neighbours; but leave me todespatch these skimmings, for all the rest is only idle talk that weshall be called to account for in the other world;" and so saying,he began a fresh attack on the bucket, with such a hearty appetitethat he aroused Don Quixote's, who no doubt would have helped himhad he not been prevented by what must be told farther on.

CHAPTER XXI

IN WHICH CAMACHO'S WEDDING IS CONTINUED, WITH OTHER DELIGHTFUL INCIDENTS

While Don Quixote and Sancho were engaged in the discussion setforth the last chapter, they heard loud shouts and a great noise,which were uttered and made by the men on the mares as they went atfull gallop, shouting, to receive the bride and bridegroom, who wereapproaching with musical instruments and pageantry of all sorts aroundthem, and accompanied by the priest and the relatives of both, and allthe most distinguished people of the surrounding villages. When Sanchosaw the bride, he exclaimed, "By my faith, she is not dressed like acountry girl, but like some fine court lady; egad, as well as I canmake out, the patena she wears rich coral, and her green Cuencastuff is thirty-pile velvet; and then the white linen trimming- bymy oath, but it's satin! Look at her hands- jet rings on them! May Inever have luck if they're not gold rings, and real gold, and set withpearls as white as a curdled milk, and every one of them worth aneye of one's head! Whoreson baggage, what hair she has! if it's nota wig, I never saw longer or fairer all the days of my life. See howbravely she bears herself- and her shape! Wouldn't you say she waslike a walking palm tree loaded with clusters of dates? for thetrinkets she has hanging from her hair and neck look just like them. Iswear in my heart she is a brave lass, and fit 'to pass over the banksof Flanders.'"

Don Quixote laughed at Sancho's boorish eulogies and thought that,saving his lady Dulcinea del Toboso, he had never seen a morebeautiful woman. The fair Quiteria appeared somewhat pale, whichwas, no doubt, because of the bad night brides always pass dressingthemselves out for their wedding on the morrow. They advancedtowards a theatre that stood on one side of the meadow decked withcarpets and boughs, where they were to plight their troth, and fromwhich they were to behold the dances and plays; but at the moment oftheir arrival at the spot they heard a loud outcry behind them, anda voice exclaiming, "Wait a little, ye, as inconsiderate as ye arehasty!" At these words all turned round, and perceived that thespeaker was a man clad in what seemed to be a loose black coatgarnished with crimson patches like flames. He was crowned (as waspresently seen) with a crown of gloomy cypress, and in his hand heheld a long staff. As he approached he was recognised by everyone asthe gay Basilio, and all waited anxiously to see what would come ofhis words, in dread of some catastrophe in consequence of hisappearance at such a moment. He came up at last weary andbreathless, and planting himself in front of the bridal pair, drovehis staff, which had a steel spike at the end, into the ground, and,with a pale face and eyes fixed on Quiteria, he thus addressed herin a hoarse, trembling voice:

"Well dost thou know, ungrateful Quiteria, that according to theholy law we acknowledge, so long as live thou canst take no husband;nor art thou ignorant either that, in my hopes that time and my ownexertions would improve my fortunes, I have never failed to observethe respect due to thy honour; but thou, casting behind thee allthou owest to my true love, wouldst surrender what is mine toanother whose wealth serves to bring him not only good fortune butsupreme happiness; and now to complete it (not that I think hedeserves it, but inasmuch as heaven is pleased to bestow it upon him),I will, with my own hands, do away with the obstacle that mayinterfere with it, and remove myself from between you. Long live therich Camacho! many a happy year may he live with the ungratefulQuiteria! and let the poor Basilio die, Basilio whose povertyclipped the wings of his happiness, and brought him to the grave!"

And so saying, he seized the staff he had driven into the ground,and leaving one half of it fixed there, showed it to be a sheaththat concealed a tolerably long rapier; and, what may he called itshilt being planted in the ground, he swiftly, coolly, and deliberatelythrew himself upon it, and in an instant the bloody point and half thesteel blade appeared at his back, the unhappy man falling to the earthbathed in his blood, and transfixed by his own weapon.

His friends at once ran to his aid, filled with grief at hismisery and sad fate, and Don Quixote, dismounting from Rocinante,hastened to support him, and took him in his arms, and found he hadnot yet ceased to breathe. They were about to draw out the rapier, butthe priest who was standing by objected to its being withdrawnbefore he had confessed him, as the instant of its withdrawal would bethat of this death. Basilio, however, reviving slightly, said in aweak voice, as though in pain, "If thou wouldst consent, cruelQuiteria, to give me thy hand as my bride in this last fatal moment, Imight still hope that my rashness would find pardon, as by its means Iattained the bliss of being thine."

Hearing this the priest bade him think of the welfare of his soulrather than of the cravings of the body, and in all earnestnessimplore God's pardon for his sins and for his rash resolve; to whichBasilio replied that he was determined not to confess unlessQuiteria first gave him her hand in marriage, for that happiness wouldcompose his mind and give him courage to make his confession.

Don Quixote hearing the wounded man's entreaty, exclaimed aloud thatwhat Basilio asked was just and reasonable, and moreover a requestthat might be easily complied with; and that it would be as much toSenor Camacho's honour to receive the lady Quiteria as the widow ofthe brave Basilio as if he received her direct from her father.

"In this case," said he, "it will be only to say 'yes,' and noconsequences can follow the utterance of the word, for the nuptialcouch of this marriage must be the grave."

Camacho was listening to all this, perplexed and bewildered andnot knowing what to say or do; but so urgent were the entreaties ofBasilio's friends, imploring him to allow Quiteria to give him herhand, so that his soul, quitting this life in despair, should not belost, that they moved, nay, forced him, to say that if Quiteria werewilling to give it he was satisfied, as it was only putting off thefulfillment of his wishes for a moment. At once all assailedQuiteria and pressed her, some with prayers, and others with tears,and others with persuasive arguments, to give her hand to poorBasilio; but she, harder than marble and more unmoved than any statue,seemed unable or unwilling to utter a word, nor would she have givenany reply had not the priest bade her decide quickly what she meant todo, as Basilio now had his soul at his teeth, and there was no timefor hesitation.

On this the fair Quiteria, to all appearance distressed, grieved,and repentant, advanced without a word to where Basilio lay, hiseyes already turned in his head, his breathing short and painful,murmuring the name of Quiteria between his teeth, and apparently aboutto die like a heathen and not like a Christian. Quiteria approachedhim, and kneeling, demanded his hand by signs without speaking.Basilio opened his eyes and gazing fixedly at her, said, "OQuiteria, why hast thou turned compassionate at a moment when thycompassion will serve as a dagger to rob me of life, for I have notnow the strength left either to bear the happiness thou givest me inaccepting me as thine, or to suppress the pain that is rapidly drawingthe dread shadow of death over my eyes? What I entreat of thee, O thoufatal star to me, is that the hand thou demandest of me and wouldstgive me, be not given out of complaisance or to deceive me afresh, butthat thou confess and declare that without any constraint upon thywill thou givest it to me as to thy lawful husband; for it is not meetthat thou shouldst trifle with me at such a moment as this, or haverecourse to falsehoods with one who has dealt so truly by thee."

While uttering these words he showed such weakness that thebystanders expected each return of faintness would take his lifewith it. Then Quiteria, overcome with modesty and shame, holding inher right hand the hand of Basilio, said, "No force would bend mywill; as freely, therefore, as it is possible for me to do so, Igive thee the hand of a lawful wife, and take thine if thou givestit to me of thine own free will, untroubled and unaffected by thecalamity thy hasty act has brought upon thee."

"Yes, I give it," said Basilio, "not agitated or distracted, butwith unclouded reason that heaven is pleased to grant me, thus do Igive myself to be thy husband."

"And I give myself to be thy wife," said Quiteria, "whether thoulivest many years, or they carry thee from my arms to the grave."

"For one so badly wounded," observed Sancho at this point, "thisyoung man has a great deal to say; they should make him leave offbilling and cooing, and attend to his soul; for to my thinking hehas it more on his tongue than at his teeth."

Basilio and Quiteria having thus joined hands, the priest, deeplymoved and with tears in his eyes, pronounced the blessing upon them,and implored heaven to grant an easy passage to the soul of thenewly wedded man, who, the instant he received the blessing, startednimbly to his feet and with unparalleled effrontery pulled out therapier that had been sheathed in his body. All the bystanders wereastounded, and some, more simple than inquiring, began shouting, "Amiracle, a miracle!" But Basilio replied, "No miracle, no miracle;only a trick, a trick!" The priest, perplexed and amazed, made hasteto examine the wound with both hands, and found that the blade hadpassed, not through Basilio's flesh and ribs, but through a hollowiron tube full of blood, which he had adroitly fixed at the place, theblood, as was afterwards ascertained, having been so prepared as notto congeal. In short, the priest and Camacho and most of those presentsaw they were tricked and made fools of. The bride showed no signsof displeasure at the deception; on the contrary, hearing them saythat the marriage, being fraudulent, would not be valid, she said thatshe confirmed it afresh, whence they all concluded that the affair hadbeen planned by agreement and understanding between the pair,whereat Camacho and his supporters were so mortified that theyproceeded to revenge themselves by violence, and a great number ofthem drawing their swords attacked Basilio, in whose protection asmany more swords were in an instant unsheathed, while Don Quixotetaking the lead on horseback, with his lance over his arm and wellcovered with his shield, made all give way before him. Sancho, whonever found any pleasure or enjoyment in such doings, retreated to thewine-jars from which he had taken his delectable skimmings,considering that, as a holy place, that spot would be respected.

"Hold, sirs, hold!" cried Don Quixote in a loud voice; "we have noright to take vengeance for wrongs that love may do to us: rememberlove and war are the same thing, and as in war it is allowable andcommon to make use of wiles and stratagems to overcome the enemy, soin the contests and rivalries of love the tricks and devicesemployed to attain the desired end are justifiable, provided they benot to the discredit or dishonour of the loved object. Quiteriabelonged to Basilio and Basilio to Quiteria by the just and beneficentdisposal of heaven. Camacho is rich, and can purchase his pleasurewhen, where, and as it pleases him. Basilio has but this ewe-lamb, andno one, however powerful he may be, shall take her from him; these twowhom God hath joined man cannot separate; and he who attempts itmust first pass the point of this lance;" and so saying hebrandished it so stoutly and dexterously that he overawed all whodid not know him.

But so deep an impression had the rejection of Quiteria made onCamacho's mind that it banished her at once from his thoughts; andso the counsels of the priest, who was a wise and kindly disposed man,prevailed with him, and by their means he and his partisans werepacified and tranquillised, and to prove it put up their swords again,inveighing against the pliancy of Quiteria rather than thecraftiness of Basilio; Camacho maintaining that, if Quiteria as amaiden had such a love for Basilio, she would have loved him too asa married woman, and that he ought to thank heaven more for havingtaken her than for having given her.

Camacho and those of his following, therefore, being consoled andpacified, those on Basilio's side were appeased; and the rich Camacho,to show that he felt no resentment for the trick, and did not careabout it, desired the festival to go on just as if he were marriedin reality. Neither Basilio, however, nor his bride, nor theirfollowers would take any part in it, and they withdrew to Basilio'svillage; for the poor, if they are persons of virtue and good sense,have those who follow, honour, and uphold them, just as the richhave those who flatter and dance attendance on them. With them theycarried Don Quixote, regarding him as a man of worth and a stoutone. Sancho alone had a cloud on his soul, for he found himselfdebarred from waiting for Camacho's splendid feast and festival, whichlasted until night; and thus dragged away, he moodily followed hismaster, who accompanied Basilio's party, and left behind him theflesh-pots of Egypt; though in his heart he took them with him, andtheir now nearly finished skimmings that he carried in the bucketconjured up visions before his eyes of the glory and abundance ofthe good cheer he was losing. And so, vexed and dejected though nothungry, without dismounting from Dapple he followed in the footstepsof Rocinante.

Title: Don Quixote
Author: Miqeul de Cervantes
Viewed 201695 times

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