Miqeul de Cervantes >> Don Quixote (page 41)

"Such, sirs, is the dismal story of my misfortune: say if it beone that can be told with less emotion than you have seen in me; anddo not trouble yourselves with urging or pressing upon me whatreason suggests as likely to serve for my relief, for it will avail meas much as the medicine prescribed by a wise physician avails the sickman who will not take it. I have no wish for health withoutLuscinda; and since it is her pleasure to be another's, when she is orshould be mine, let it be mine to be a prey to misery when I mighthave enjoyed happiness. She by her fickleness strove to make my ruinirretrievable; I will strive to gratify her wishes by seekingdestruction; and it will show generations to come that I alone wasdeprived of that of which all others in misfortune have asuperabundance, for to them the impossibility of being consoled isitself a consolation, while to me it is the cause of greater sorrowsand sufferings, for I think that even in death there will not be anend of them."

Here Cardenio brought to a close his long discourse and story, asfull of misfortune as it was of love; but just as the curate was goingto address some words of comfort to him, he was stopped by a voicethat reached his ear, saying in melancholy tones what will be toldin the Fourth Part of this narrative; for at this point the sage andsagacious historian, Cide Hamete Benengeli, brought the Third to aconclusion.



Happy and fortunate were the times when that most daring knightDon Quixote of La Mancha was sent into the world; for by reason of hishaving formed a resolution so honourable as that of seeking torevive and restore to the world the long-lost and almost defunct orderof knight-errantry, we now enjoy in this age of ours, so poor in lightentertainment, not only the charm of his veracious history, but alsoof the tales and episodes contained in it which are, in a measure,no less pleasing, ingenious, and truthful, than the history itself;which, resuming its thread, carded, spun, and wound, relates that justas the curate was going to offer consolation to Cardenio, he wasinterrupted by a voice that fell upon his ear saying in plaintivetones:

"O God! is it possible I have found a place that may serve as asecret grave for the weary load of this body that I support sounwillingly? If the solitude these mountains promise deceives menot, it is so; ah! woe is me! how much more grateful to my mind willbe the society of these rocks and brakes that permit me to complain ofmy misfortune to Heaven, than that of any human being, for there isnone on earth to look to for counsel in doubt, comfort in sorrow, orrelief in distress!"

All this was heard distinctly by the curate and those with him,and as it seemed to them to be uttered close by, as indeed it was,they got up to look for the speaker, and before they had gone twentypaces they discovered behind a rock, seated at the foot of an ashtree, a youth in the dress of a peasant, whose face they were unableat the moment to see as he was leaning forward, bathing his feet inthe brook that flowed past. They approached so silently that he didnot perceive them, being fully occupied in bathing his feet, whichwere so fair that they looked like two pieces of shining crystalbrought forth among the other stones of the brook. The whiteness andbeauty of these feet struck them with surprise, for they did notseem to have been made to crush clods or to follow the plough andthe oxen as their owner's dress suggested; and so, finding they hadnot been noticed, the curate, who was in front, made a sign to theother two to conceal themselves behind some fragments of rock that laythere; which they did, observing closely what the youth was about.He had on a loose double-skirted dark brown jacket bound tight tohis body with a white cloth; he wore besides breeches and gaiters ofbrown cloth, and on his head a brown montera; and he had the gaitersturned up as far as the middle of the leg, which verily seemed to beof pure alabaster.

As soon as he had done bathing his beautiful feet, he wiped themwith a towel he took from under the montera, on taking off which heraised his face, and those who were watching him had an opportunity ofseeing a beauty so exquisite that Cardenio said to the curate in awhisper:

"As this is not Luscinda, it is no human creature but a divinebeing."

The youth then took off the montera, and shaking his head fromside to side there broke loose and spread out a mass of hair thatthe beams of the sun might have envied; by this they knew that whathad seemed a peasant was a lovely woman, nay the most beautiful theeyes of two of them had ever beheld, or even Cardenio's if they hadnot seen and known Luscinda, for he afterwards declared that onlythe beauty of Luscinda could compare with this. The long auburntresses not only covered her shoulders, but such was their lengthand abundance, concealed her all round beneath their masses, so thatexcept the feet nothing of her form was visible. She now used herhands as a comb, and if her feet had seemed like bits of crystal inthe water, her hands looked like pieces of driven snow among herlocks; all which increased not only the admiration of the threebeholders, but their anxiety to learn who she was. With this objectthey resolved to show themselves, and at the stir they made in gettingupon their feet the fair damsel raised her head, and parting herhair from before her eyes with both hands, she looked to see who hadmade the noise, and the instant she perceived them she started toher feet, and without waiting to put on her shoes or gather up herhair, hastily snatched up a bundle as though of clothes that she hadbeside her, and, scared and alarmed, endeavoured to take flight; butbefore she had gone six paces she fell to the ground, her delicatefeet being unable to bear the roughness of the stones; seeing which,the three hastened towards her, and the curate addressing her firstsaid:

"Stay, senora, whoever you may be, for those whom you see hereonly desire to be of service to you; you have no need to attempt aflight so heedless, for neither can your feet bear it, nor we allowit."

Taken by surprise and bewildered, she made no reply to thesewords. They, however, came towards her, and the curate taking her handwent on to say:

"What your dress would hide, senora, is made known to us by yourhair; a clear proof that it can be no trifling cause that hasdisguised your beauty in a garb so unworthy of it, and sent it intosolitudes like these where we have had the good fortune to find you,if not to relieve your distress, at least to offer you comfort; for nodistress, so long as life lasts, can be so oppressive or reach sucha height as to make the sufferer refuse to listen to comfort offeredwith good intention. And so, senora, or senor, or whatever youprefer to be, dismiss the fears that our appearance has caused you andmake us acquainted with your good or evil fortunes, for from all of ustogether, or from each one of us, you will receive sympathy in yourtrouble."

While the curate was speaking, the disguised damsel stood as ifspell-bound, looking at them without opening her lips or uttering aword, just like a village rustic to whom something strange that he hasnever seen before has been suddenly shown; but on the curateaddressing some further words to the same effect to her, sighingdeeply she broke silence and said:

"Since the solitude of these mountains has been unable to concealme, and the escape of my dishevelled tresses will not allow mytongue to deal in falsehoods, it would be idle for me now to makeany further pretence of what, if you were to believe me, you wouldbelieve more out of courtesy than for any other reason. This being so,I say I thank you, sirs, for the offer you have made me, whichplaces me under the obligation of complying with the request youhave made of me; though I fear the account I shall give you of mymisfortunes will excite in you as much concern as compassion, foryou will be unable to suggest anything to remedy them or anyconsolation to alleviate them. However, that my honour may not be lefta matter of doubt in your minds, now that you have discovered me to bea woman, and see that I am young, alone, and in this dress, thingsthat taken together or separately would be enough to destroy anygood name, I feel bound to tell what I would willingly keep secretif I could."

All this she who was now seen to be a lovely woman delivered withoutany hesitation, with so much ease and in so sweet a voice that theywere not less charmed by her intelligence than by her beauty, and asthey again repeated their offers and entreaties to her to fulfil herpromise, she without further pressing, first modestly covering herfeet and gathering up her hair, seated herself on a stone with thethree placed around her, and, after an effort to restrain some tearsthat came to her eyes, in a clear and steady voice began her storythus:

"In this Andalusia there is a town from which a duke takes a titlewhich makes him one of those that are called Grandees of Spain. Thisnobleman has two sons, the elder heir to his dignity and apparently tohis good qualities; the younger heir to I know not what, unless itbe the treachery of Vellido and the falsehood of Ganelon. My parentsare this lord's vassals, lowly in origin, but so wealthy that if birthhad conferred as much on them as fortune, they would have hadnothing left to desire, nor should I have had reason to fear troublelike that in which I find myself now; for it may be that my illfortune came of theirs in not having been nobly born. It is truethey are not so low that they have any reason to be ashamed of theircondition, but neither are they so high as to remove from my mindthe impression that my mishap comes of their humble birth. They are,in short, peasants, plain homely people, without any taint ofdisreputable blood, and, as the saying is, old rusty Christians, butso rich that by their wealth and free-handed way of life they arecoming by degrees to be considered gentlefolk by birth, and even byposition; though the wealth and nobility they thought most of washaving me for their daughter; and as they have no other child tomake their heir, and are affectionate parents, I was one of the mostindulged daughters that ever parents indulged.

"I was the mirror in which they beheld themselves, the staff oftheir old age, and the object in which, with submission to Heaven, alltheir wishes centred, and mine were in accordance with theirs, for Iknew their worth; and as I was mistress of their hearts, so was I alsoof their possessions. Through me they engaged or dismissed theirservants; through my hands passed the accounts and returns of what wassown and reaped; the oil-mills, the wine-presses, the count of theflocks and herds, the beehives, all in short that a rich farmer likemy father has or can have, I had under my care, and I acted as stewardand mistress with an assiduity on my part and satisfaction on theirsthat I cannot well describe to you. The leisure hours left to me afterI had given the requisite orders to the head-shepherds, overseers, andother labourers, I passed in such employments as are not onlyallowable but necessary for young girls, those that the needle,embroidery cushion, and spinning wheel usually afford, and if torefresh my mind I quitted them for a while, I found recreation inreading some devotional book or playing the harp, for experiencetaught me that music soothes the troubled mind and relievesweariness of spirit. Such was the life I led in my parents' houseand if I have depicted it thus minutely, it is not out of ostentation,or to let you know that I am rich, but that you may see how, withoutany fault of mine, I have fallen from the happy condition I havedescribed, to the misery I am in at present. The truth is, thatwhile I was leading this busy life, in a retirement that might comparewith that of a monastery, and unseen as I thought by any except theservants of the house (for when I went to Mass it was so early inthe morning, and I was so closely attended by my mother and thewomen of the household, and so thickly veiled and so shy, that my eyesscarcely saw more ground than I trod on), in spite of all this, theeyes of love, or idleness, more properly speaking, that the lynx'scannot rival, discovered me, with the help of the assiduity of DonFernando; for that is the name of the younger son of the duke I toldof."

The moment the speaker mentioned the name of Don Fernando,Cardenio changed colour and broke into a sweat, with such signs ofemotion that the curate and the barber, who observed it, feared thatone of the mad fits which they heard attacked him sometimes was comingupon him; but Cardenio showed no further agitation and remained quiet,regarding the peasant girl with fixed attention, for he began tosuspect who she was. She, however, without noticing the excitementof Cardenio, continuing her story, went on to say:

"And they had hardly discovered me, when, as he owned afterwards, hewas smitten with a violent love for me, as the manner in which itdisplayed itself plainly showed. But to shorten the long recital of mywoes, I will pass over in silence all the artifices employed by DonFernando for declaring his passion for me. He bribed all thehousehold, he gave and offered gifts and presents to my parents; everyday was like a holiday or a merry-making in our street; by night noone could sleep for the music; the love letters that used to come tomy hand, no one knew how, were innumerable, full of tender pleadingsand pledges, containing more promises and oaths than there wereletters in them; all which not only did not soften me, but hardened myheart against him, as if he had been my mortal enemy, and as ifeverything he did to make me yield were done with the oppositeintention. Not that the high-bred bearing of Don Fernando wasdisagreeable to me, or that I found his importunities wearisome; forit gave me a certain sort of satisfaction to find myself so sought andprized by a gentleman of such distinction, and I was not displeased atseeing my praises in his letters (for however ugly we women may be, itseems to me it always pleases us to hear ourselves called beautiful)but that my own sense of right was opposed to all this, as well as therepeated advice of my parents, who now very plainly perceived DonFernando's purpose, for he cared very little if all the world knew it.They told me they trusted and confided their honour and good name tomy virtue and rectitude alone, and bade me consider the disparitybetween Don Fernando and myself, from which I might conclude thathis intentions, whatever he might say to the contrary, had for theiraim his own pleasure rather than my advantage; and if I were at alldesirous of opposing an obstacle to his unreasonable suit, they wereready, they said, to marry me at once to anyone I preferred, eitheramong the leading people of our own town, or of any of those in theneighbourhood; for with their wealth and my good name, a match mightbe looked for in any quarter. This offer, and their sound advicestrengthened my resolution, and I never gave Don Fernando a word inreply that could hold out to him any hope of success, however remote.

Title: Don Quixote
Author: Miqeul de Cervantes
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