Miqeul de Cervantes >> Don Quixote (page 42)

"All this caution of mine, which he must have taken for coyness, hadapparently the effect of increasing his wanton appetite- for that isthe name I give to his passion for me; had it been what he declared itto be, you would not know of it now, because there would have beenno occasion to tell you of it. At length he learned that my parentswere contemplating marriage for me in order to put an end to his hopesof obtaining possession of me, or at least to secure additionalprotectors to watch over me, and this intelligence or suspicion madehim act as you shall hear. One night, as I was in my chamber with noother companion than a damsel who waited on me, with the doorscarefully locked lest my honour should be imperilled through anycarelessness, I know not nor can conceive how it happened, but, withall this seclusion and these precautions, and in the solitude andsilence of my retirement, I found him standing before me, a visionthat so astounded me that it deprived my eyes of sight, and mytongue of speech. I had no power to utter a cry, nor, I think, didhe give me time to utter one, as he immediately approached me, andtaking me in his arms (for, overwhelmed as I was, I was powerless, Isay, to help myself), he began to make such professions to me that Iknow not how falsehood could have had the power of dressing them up toseem so like truth; and the traitor contrived that his tears shouldvouch for his words, and his sighs for his sincerity.

"I, a poor young creature alone, ill versed among my people in casessuch as this, began, I know not how, to think all these lyingprotestations true, though without being moved by his sighs andtears to anything more than pure compassion; and so, as the firstfeeling of bewilderment passed away, and I began in some degree torecover myself, I said to him with more courage than I thought I couldhave possessed, 'If, as I am now in your arms, senor, I were in theclaws of a fierce lion, and my deliverance could be procured bydoing or saying anything to the prejudice of my honour, it would nomore be in my power to do it or say it, than it would be possible thatwhat was should not have been; so then, if you hold my body clasped inyour arms, I hold my soul secured by virtuous intentions, verydifferent from yours, as you will see if you attempt to carry theminto effect by force. I am your vassal, but I am not your slave;your nobility neither has nor should have any right to dishonour ordegrade my humble birth; and low-born peasant as I am, I have myself-respect as much as you, a lord and gentleman: with me yourviolence will be to no purpose, your wealth will have no weight,your words will have no power to deceive me, nor your sighs or tearsto soften me: were I to see any of the things I speak of in him whommy parents gave me as a husband, his will should be mine, and mineshould be bounded by his; and my honour being preserved even though myinclinations were not would willingly yield him what you, senor, wouldnow obtain by force; and this I say lest you should suppose that anybut my lawful husband shall ever win anything of me.' 'If that,'said this disloyal gentleman, 'be the only scruple you feel, fairestDorothea' (for that is the name of this unhappy being), 'see here Igive you my hand to be yours, and let Heaven, from which nothing ishid, and this image of Our Lady you have here, be witnesses of thispledge.'"

When Cardenio heard her say she was called Dorothea, he showed freshagitation and felt convinced of the truth of his former suspicion, buthe was unwilling to interrupt the story, and wished to hear the end ofwhat he already all but knew, so he merely said:

"What! is Dorothea your name, senora? I have heard of another of thesame name who can perhaps match your misfortunes. But proceed;by-and-by I may tell you something that will astonish you as much asit will excite your compassion."

Dorothea was struck by Cardenio's words as well as by his strangeand miserable attire, and begged him if he knew anything concerningher to tell it to her at once, for if fortune had left her anyblessing it was courage to bear whatever calamity might fall upon her,as she felt sure that none could reach her capable of increasing inany degree what she endured already.

"I would not let the occasion pass, senora," replied Cardenio, "oftelling you what I think, if what I suspect were the truth, but so farthere has been no opportunity, nor is it of any importance to you toknow it."

"Be it as it may," replied Dorothea, "what happened in my storywas that Don Fernando, taking an image that stood in the chamber,placed it as a witness of our betrothal, and with the most bindingwords and extravagant oaths gave me his promise to become myhusband; though before he had made an end of pledging himself I badehim consider well what he was doing, and think of the anger his fatherwould feel at seeing him married to a peasant girl and one of hisvassals; I told him not to let my beauty, such as it was, blind him,for that was not enough to furnish an excuse for his transgression;and if in the love he bore me he wished to do me any kindness, itwould be to leave my lot to follow its course at the level mycondition required; for marriages so unequal never broughthappiness, nor did they continue long to afford the enjoyment theybegan with.

"All this that I have now repeated I said to him, and much morewhich I cannot recollect; but it had no effect in inducing him toforego his purpose; he who has no intention of paying does not troublehimself about difficulties when he is striking the bargain. At thesame time I argued the matter briefly in my own mind, saying tomyself, 'I shall not be the first who has risen through marriagefrom a lowly to a lofty station, nor will Don Fernando be the firstwhom beauty or, as is more likely, a blind attachment, has led to matehimself below his rank. Then, since I am introducing no new usage orpractice, I may as well avail myself of the honour that chanceoffers me, for even though his inclination for me should not outlastthe attainment of his wishes, I shall be, after all, his wife beforeGod. And if I strive to repel him by scorn, I can see that, fair meansfailing, he is in a mood to use force, and I shall be left dishonouredand without any means of proving my innocence to those who cannot knowhow innocently I have come to be in this position; for whatarguments would persuade my parents that this gentleman entered mychamber without my consent?'

"All these questions and answers passed through my mind in a moment;but the oaths of Don Fernando, the witnesses he appealed to, the tearshe shed, and lastly the charms of his person and his high-bredgrace, which, accompanied by such signs of genuine love, might wellhave conquered a heart even more free and coy than mine- these werethe things that more than all began to influence me and lead meunawares to my ruin. I called my waiting-maid to me, that theremight be a witness on earth besides those in Heaven, and again DonFernando renewed and repeated his oaths, invoked as witnesses freshsaints in addition to the former ones, called down upon himself athousand curses hereafter should he fail to keep his promise, shedmore tears, redoubled his sighs and pressed me closer in his arms,from which he had never allowed me to escape; and so I was left bymy maid, and ceased to be one, and he became a traitor and aperjured man.

"The day which followed the night of my misfortune did not come soquickly, I imagine, as Don Fernando wished, for when desire hasattained its object, the greatest pleasure is to fly from the scene ofpleasure. I say so because Don Fernando made all haste to leave me,and by the adroitness of my maid, who was indeed the one who hadadmitted him, gained the street before daybreak; but on taking leaveof me he told me, though not with as much earnestness and fervour aswhen he came, that I might rest assured of his faith and of thesanctity and sincerity of his oaths; and to confirm his words hedrew a rich ring off his finger and placed it upon mine. He thentook his departure and I was left, I know not whether sorrowful orhappy; all I can say is, I was left agitated and troubled in mindand almost bewildered by what had taken place, and I had not thespirit, or else it did not occur to me, to chide my maid for thetreachery she had been guilty of in concealing Don Fernando in mychamber; for as yet I was unable to make up my mind whether what hadbefallen me was for good or evil. I told Don Fernando at parting, thatas I was now his, he might see me on other nights in the same way,until it should be his pleasure to let the matter become known; but,except the following night, he came no more, nor for more than a monthcould I catch a glimpse of him in the street or in church, while Iwearied myself with watching for one; although I knew he was in thetown, and almost every day went out hunting, a pastime he was veryfond of. I remember well how sad and dreary those days and hourswere to me; I remember well how I began to doubt as they went by,and even to lose confidence in the faith of Don Fernando; and Iremember, too, how my maid heard those words in reproof of heraudacity that she had not heard before, and how I was forced to puta constraint on my tears and on the expression of my countenance,not to give my parents cause to ask me why I was so melancholy, anddrive me to invent falsehoods in reply. But all this was suddenlybrought to an end, for the time came when all such considerations weredisregarded, and there was no further question of honour, when mypatience gave way and the secret of my heart became known abroad.The reason was, that a few days later it was reported in the town thatDon Fernando had been married in a neighbouring city to a maiden ofrare beauty, the daughter of parents of distinguished position, thoughnot so rich that her portion would entitle her to look for sobrilliant a match; it was said, too, that her name was Luscinda, andthat at the betrothal some strange things had happened."

Cardenio heard the name of Luscinda, but he only shrugged hisshoulders, bit his lips, bent his brows, and before long two streamsof tears escaped from his eyes. Dorothea, however, did not interrupther story, but went on in these words:

"This sad intelligence reached my ears, and, instead of being struckwith a chill, with such wrath and fury did my heart burn that Iscarcely restrained myself from rushing out into the streets, cryingaloud and proclaiming openly the perfidy and treachery of which Iwas the victim; but this transport of rage was for the time checked bya resolution I formed, to be carried out the same night, and thatwas to assume this dress, which I got from a servant of my father's,one of the zagals, as they are called in farmhouses, to whom Iconfided the whole of my misfortune, and whom I entreated to accompanyme to the city where I heard my enemy was. He, though heremonstrated with me for my boldness, and condemned my resolution,when he saw me bent upon my purpose, offered to bear me company, as hesaid, to the end of the world. I at once packed up in a linenpillow-case a woman's dress, and some jewels and money to providefor emergencies, and in the silence of the night, without letting mytreacherous maid know, I sallied forth from the house, accompaniedby my servant and abundant anxieties, and on foot set out for thecity, but borne as it were on wings by my eagerness to reach it, ifnot to prevent what I presumed to be already done, at least to callupon Don Fernando to tell me with what conscience he had done it. Ireached my destination in two days and a half, and on entering thecity inquired for the house of Luscinda's parents. The first personI asked gave me more in reply than I sought to know; he showed methe house, and told me all that had occurred at the betrothal of thedaughter of the family, an affair of such notoriety in the city thatit was the talk of every knot of idlers in the street. He said that onthe night of Don Fernando's betrothal with Luscinda, as soon as shehad consented to be his bride by saying 'Yes,' she was taken with asudden fainting fit, and that on the bridegroom approaching tounlace the bosom of her dress to give her air, he found a paper in herown handwriting, in which she said and declared that she could notbe Don Fernando's bride, because she was already Cardenio's, who,according to the man's account, was a gentleman of distinction ofthe same city; and that if she had accepted Don Fernando, it wasonly in obedience to her parents. In short, he said, the words ofthe paper made it clear she meant to kill herself on the completion ofthe betrothal, and gave her reasons for putting an end to herselfall which was confirmed, it was said, by a dagger they found somewherein her clothes. On seeing this, Don Fernando, persuaded thatLuscinda had befooled, slighted, and trifled with him, assailed herbefore she had recovered from her swoon, and tried to stab her withthe dagger that had been found, and would have succeeded had not herparents and those who were present prevented him. It was said,moreover, that Don Fernando went away at once, and that Luscinda didnot recover from her prostration until the next day, when she told herparents how she was really the bride of that Cardenio I havementioned. I learned besides that Cardenio, according to report, hadbeen present at the betrothal; and that upon seeing her betrothedcontrary to his expectation, he had quitted the city in despair,leaving behind him a letter declaring the wrong Luscinda had done him,and his intention of going where no one should ever see him again. Allthis was a matter of notoriety in the city, and everyone spoke ofit; especially when it became known that Luscinda was missing from herfather's house and from the city, for she was not to be foundanywhere, to the distraction of her parents, who knew not what stepsto take to recover her. What I learned revived my hopes, and I wasbetter pleased not to have found Don Fernando than to find himmarried, for it seemed to me that the door was not yet entirely shutupon relief in my case, and I thought that perhaps Heaven had put thisimpediment in the way of the second marriage, to lead him to recognisehis obligations under the former one, and reflect that as aChristian he was bound to consider his soul above all human objects.All this passed through my mind, and I strove to comfort myselfwithout comfort, indulging in faint and distant hopes of cherishingthat life that I now abhor.

Title: Don Quixote
Author: Miqeul de Cervantes
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