Miqeul de Cervantes >> Don Quixote (page 40)

"I reached the place whither I had been sent, gave the letter to DonFernando's brother, and was kindly received but not promptlydismissed, for he desired me to wait, very much against my will, eightdays in some place where the duke his father was not likely to see me,as his brother wrote that the money was to be sent without hisknowledge; all of which was a scheme of the treacherous DonFernando, for his brother had no want of money to enable him todespatch me at once.

"The command was one that exposed me to the temptation of disobeyingit, as it seemed to me impossible to endure life for so many daysseparated from Luscinda, especially after leaving her in the sorrowfulmood I have described to you; nevertheless as a dutiful servant Iobeyed, though I felt it would be at the cost of my well-being. Butfour days later there came a man in quest of me with a letter which hegave me, and which by the address I perceived to be from Luscinda,as the writing was hers. I opened it with fear and trepidation,persuaded that it must be something serious that had impelled her towrite to me when at a distance, as she seldom did so when I wasnear. Before reading it I asked the man who it was that had given itto him, and how long he had been upon the road; he told me that ashe happened to be passing through one of the streets of the city atthe hour of noon, a very beautiful lady called to him from a window,and with tears in her eyes said to him hurriedly, 'Brother, if youare, as you seem to be, a Christian, for the love of God I entreat youto have this letter despatched without a moment's delay to the placeand person named in the address, all which is well known, and bythis you will render a great service to our Lord; and that you maybe at no inconvenience in doing so take what is in this handkerchief;'and said he, 'with this she threw me a handkerchief out of thewindow in which were tied up a hundred reals and this gold ringwhich I bring here together with the letter I have given you. And thenwithout waiting for any answer she left the window, though notbefore she saw me take the letter and the handkerchief, and I had bysigns let her know that I would do as she bade me; and so, seeingmyself so well paid for the trouble I would have in bringing it toyou, and knowing by the address that it was to you it was sent (for,senor, I know you very well), and also unable to resist that beautifullady's tears, I resolved to trust no one else, but to come myselfand give it to you, and in sixteen hours from the time when it wasgiven me I have made the journey, which, as you know, is eighteenleagues.'

"All the while the good-natured improvised courier was telling methis, I hung upon his words, my legs trembling under me so that Icould scarcely stand. However, I opened the letter and read thesewords:

"'The promise Don Fernando gave you to urge your father to speakto mine, he has fulfilled much more to his own satisfaction than toyour advantage. I have to tell you, senor, that be has demanded me fora wife, and my father, led away by what he considers Don Fernando'ssuperiority over you, has favoured his suit so cordially, that intwo days hence the betrothal is to take place with such secrecy and soprivately that the only witnesses are to be the Heavens above and afew of the household. Picture to yourself the state I am in; judgeif it be urgent for you to come; the issue of the affair will show youwhether I love you or not. God grant this may come to your hand beforemine shall be forced to link itself with his who keeps so ill thefaith that he has pledged.'

"Such, in brief, were the words of the letter, words that made meset out at once without waiting any longer for reply or money; for Inow saw clearly that it was not the purchase of horses but of hisown pleasure that had made Don Fernando send me to his brother. Theexasperation I felt against Don Fernando, joined with the fear oflosing the prize I had won by so many years of love and devotion, lentme wings; so that almost flying I reached home the same day, by thehour which served for speaking with Luscinda. I arrived unobserved,and left the mule on which I had come at the house of the worthy manwho had brought me the letter, and fortune was pleased to be foronce so kind that I found Luscinda at the grating that was the witnessof our loves. She recognised me at once, and I her, but not as sheought to have recognised me, or I her. But who is there in the worldthat can boast of having fathomed or understood the wavering mindand unstable nature of a woman? Of a truth no one. To proceed: as soonas Luscinda saw me she said, 'Cardenio, I am in my bridal dress, andthe treacherous Don Fernando and my covetous father are waiting for mein the hall with the other witnesses, who shall be the witnesses of mydeath before they witness my betrothal. Be not distressed, myfriend, but contrive to be present at this sacrifice, and if thatcannot be prevented by my words, I have a dagger concealed whichwill prevent more deliberate violence, putting an end to my life andgiving thee a first proof of the love I have borne and bear thee.' Ireplied to her distractedly and hastily, in fear lest I should nothave time to reply, 'May thy words be verified by thy deeds, lady; andif thou hast a dagger to save thy honour, I have a sword to defendthee or kill myself if fortune be against us.'

"I think she could not have heard all these words, for I perceivedthat they called her away in haste, as the bridegroom was waiting. Nowthe night of my sorrow set in, the sun of my happiness went down, Ifelt my eyes bereft of sight, my mind of reason. I could not enter thehouse, nor was I capable of any movement; but reflecting how importantit was that I should be present at what might take place on theoccasion, I nerved myself as best I could and went in, for I well knewall the entrances and outlets; and besides, with the confusion that insecret pervaded the house no one took notice of me, so, withoutbeing seen, I found an opportunity of placing myself in the recessformed by a window of the hall itself, and concealed by the ends andborders of two tapestries, from between which I could, without beingseen, see all that took place in the room. Who could describe theagitation of heart I suffered as I stood there- the thoughts that cameto me- the reflections that passed through my mind? They were suchas cannot be, nor were it well they should be, told. Suffice it to saythat the bridegroom entered the hall in his usual dress, withoutornament of any kind; as groomsman he had with him a cousin ofLuscinda's and except the servants of the house there was no oneelse in the chamber. Soon afterwards Luscinda came out from anantechamber, attended by her mother and two of her damsels, arrayedand adorned as became her rank and beauty, and in full festival andceremonial attire. My anxiety and distraction did not allow me toobserve or notice particularly what she wore; I could only perceivethe colours, which were crimson and white, and the glitter of the gemsand jewels on her head dress and apparel, surpassed by the rare beautyof her lovely auburn hair that vying with the precious stones andthe light of the four torches that stood in the hall shone with abrighter gleam than all. Oh memory, mortal foe of my peace! whybring before me now the incomparable beauty of that adored enemy ofmine? Were it not better, cruel memory, to remind me and recall whatshe then did, that stirred by a wrong so glaring I may seek, if notvengeance now, at least to rid myself of life? Be not weary, sirs,of listening to these digressions; my sorrow is not one of thosethat can or should be told tersely and briefly, for to me eachincident seems to call for many words."

To this the curate replied that not only were they not weary oflistening to him, but that the details he mentioned interested themgreatly, being of a kind by no means to be omitted and deserving ofthe same attention as the main story.

"To proceed, then," continued Cardenio: "all being assembled inthe hall, the priest of the parish came in and as he took the pairby the hand to perform the requisite ceremony, at the words, 'Willyou, Senora Luscinda, take Senor Don Fernando, here present, foryour lawful husband, as the holy Mother Church ordains?' I thrust myhead and neck out from between the tapestries, and with eager ears andthrobbing heart set myself to listen to Luscinda's answer, awaiting inher reply the sentence of death or the grant of life. Oh, that I hadbut dared at that moment to rush forward crying aloud, 'Luscinda,Luscinda! have a care what thou dost; remember what thou owest me;bethink thee thou art mine and canst not be another's; reflect thatthy utterance of "Yes" and the end of my life will come at the sameinstant. O, treacherous Don Fernando! robber of my glory, death ofmy life! What seekest thou? Remember that thou canst not as aChristian attain the object of thy wishes, for Luscinda is my bride,and I am her husband!' Fool that I am! now that I am far away, and outof danger, I say I should have done what I did not do: now that I haveallowed my precious treasure to be robbed from me, I curse the robber,on whom I might have taken vengeance had I as much heart for it as Ihave for bewailing my fate; in short, as I was then a coward and afool, little wonder is it if I am now dying shame-stricken,remorseful, and mad.

"The priest stood waiting for the answer of Luscinda, who for a longtime withheld it; and just as I thought she was taking out thedagger to save her honour, or struggling for words to make somedeclaration of the truth on my behalf, I heard her say in a faintand feeble voice, 'I will:' Don Fernando said the same, and giving herthe ring they stood linked by a knot that could never be loosed. Thebridegroom then approached to embrace his bride; and she, pressing herhand upon her heart, fell fainting in her mother's arms. It onlyremains now for me to tell you the state I was in when in that consentthat I heard I saw all my hopes mocked, the words and promises ofLuscinda proved falsehoods, and the recovery of the prize I had thatinstant lost rendered impossible for ever. I stood stupefied, whollyabandoned, it seemed, by Heaven, declared the enemy of the earththat bore me, the air refusing me breath for my sighs, the watermoisture for my tears; it was only the fire that gathered strengthso that my whole frame glowed with rage and jealousy. They were allthrown into confusion by Luscinda's fainting, and as her mother wasunlacing her to give her air a sealed paper was discovered in herbosom which Don Fernando seized at once and began to read by the lightof one of the torches. As soon as he had read it he seated himselfin a chair, leaning his cheek on his hand in the attitude of onedeep in thought, without taking any part in the efforts that werebeing made to recover his bride from her fainting fit.

"Seeing all the household in confusion, I ventured to come outregardless whether I were seen or not, and determined, if I were, todo some frenzied deed that would prove to all the world therighteous indignation of my breast in the punishment of thetreacherous Don Fernando, and even in that of the fickle faintingtraitress. But my fate, doubtless reserving me for greater sorrows, ifsuch there be, so ordered it that just then I had enough and tospare of that reason which has since been wanting to me; and so,without seeking to take vengeance on my greatest enemies (whichmight have been easily taken, as all thought of me was so far fromtheir minds), I resolved to take it upon myself, and on myself toinflict the pain they deserved, perhaps with even greater severitythan I should have dealt out to them had I then slain them; for suddenpain is soon over, but that which is protracted by tortures is everslaying without ending life. In a word, I quitted the house andreached that of the man with whom I had left my mule; I made himsaddle it for me, mounted without bidding him farewell, and rode outof the city, like another Lot, not daring to turn my head to look backupon it; and when I found myself alone in the open country, screenedby the darkness of the night, and tempted by the stillness to givevent to my grief without apprehension or fear of being heard orseen, then I broke silence and lifted up my voice in maledictions uponLuscinda and Don Fernando, as if I could thus avenge the wrong theyhad done me. I called her cruel, ungrateful, false, thankless, butabove all covetous, since the wealth of my enemy had blinded theeyes of her affection, and turned it from me to transfer it to oneto whom fortune had been more generous and liberal. And yet, in themidst of this outburst of execration and upbraiding, I found excusesfor her, saying it was no wonder that a young girl in the seclusion ofher parents' house, trained and schooled to obey them always, shouldhave been ready to yield to their wishes when they offered her for ahusband a gentleman of such distinction, wealth, and noble birth, thatif she had refused to accept him she would have been thought out ofher senses, or to have set her affection elsewhere, a suspicioninjurious to her fair name and fame. But then again, I said, had shedeclared I was her husband, they would have seen that in choosing meshe had not chosen so ill but that they might excuse her, for beforeDon Fernando had made his offer, they themselves could not havedesired, if their desires had been ruled by reason, a more eligiblehusband for their daughter than I was; and she, before taking the lastfatal step of giving her hand, might easily have said that I hadalready given her mine, for I should have come forward to supportany assertion of hers to that effect. In short, I came to theconclusion that feeble love, little reflection, great ambition, anda craving for rank, had made her forget the words with which she haddeceived me, encouraged and supported by my firm hopes andhonourable passion.

"Thus soliloquising and agitated, I journeyed onward for theremainder of the night, and by daybreak I reached one of the passes ofthese mountains, among which I wandered for three days more withouttaking any path or road, until I came to some meadows lying on Iknow not which side of the mountains, and there I inquired of someherdsmen in what direction the most rugged part of the range lay. Theytold me that it was in this quarter, and I at once directed mycourse hither, intending to end my life here; but as I was making myway among these crags, my mule dropped dead through fatigue andhunger, or, as I think more likely, in order to have done with sucha worthless burden as it bore in me. I was left on foot, worn out,famishing, without anyone to help me or any thought of seeking help:and so thus I lay stretched on the ground, how long I know not,after which I rose up free from hunger, and found beside me somegoatherds, who no doubt were the persons who had relieved me in myneed, for they told me how they had found me, and how I had beenuttering ravings that showed plainly I had lost my reason; and sincethen I am conscious that I am not always in full possession of it, butat times so deranged and crazed that I do a thousand mad things,tearing my clothes, crying aloud in these solitudes, cursing myfate, and idly calling on the dear name of her who is my enemy, andonly seeking to end my life in lamentation; and when I recover mysenses I find myself so exhausted and weary that I can scarcelymove. Most commonly my dwelling is the hollow of a cork tree largeenough to shelter this miserable body; the herdsmen and goatherdswho frequent these mountains, moved by compassion, furnish me withfood, leaving it by the wayside or on the rocks, where they think Imay perhaps pass and find it; and so, even though I may be then out ofmy senses, the wants of nature teach me what is required to sustainme, and make me crave it and eager to take it. At other times, so theytell me when they find me in a rational mood, I sally out upon theroad, and though they would gladly give it me, I snatch food byforce from the shepherds bringing it from the village to their huts.Thus do pass the wretched life that remains to me, until it beHeaven's will to bring it to a close, or so to order my memory thatI no longer recollect the beauty and treachery of Luscinda, or thewrong done me by Don Fernando; for if it will do this withoutdepriving me of life, I will turn my thoughts into some betterchannel; if not, I can only implore it to have full mercy on mysoul, for in myself I feel no power or strength to release my bodyfrom this strait in which I have of my own accord chosen to place it.

Title: Don Quixote
Author: Miqeul de Cervantes
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