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CHAPTER XLVIII

OF WHAT BEFELL DON QUIXOTE WITH DONA RODRIGUEZ, THE DUCHESS'S
DUENNA, TOGETHER WITH OTHER OCCURRENCES WORTHY OF RECORD AND ETERNAL
REMEMBRANCE

Exceedingly moody and dejected was the sorely wounded Don Quixote,
with his face bandaged and marked, not by the hand of God, but by
the claws of a cat, mishaps incidental to knight-errantry. Six days he
remained without appearing in public, and one night as he lay awake
thinking of his misfortunes and of Altisidora's pursuit of him, he
perceived that some one was opening the door of his room with a key,
and he at once made up his mind that the enamoured damsel was coming
to make an assault upon his chastity and put him in danger of
failing in the fidelity he owed to his lady Dulcinea del Toboso. "No,"
said he, firmly persuaded of the truth of his idea (and he said it
loud enough to be heard), "the greatest beauty upon earth shall not
avail to make me renounce my adoration of her whom I bear stamped
and graved in the core of my heart and the secret depths of my bowels;
be thou, lady mine, transformed into a clumsy country wench, or into a
nymph of golden Tagus weaving a web of silk and gold, let Merlin or
Montesinos hold thee captive where they will; whereer thou art, thou
art mine, and where'er I am, must he thine." The very instant he had
uttered these words, the door opened. He stood up on the bed wrapped
from head to foot in a yellow satin coverlet, with a cap on his
head, and his face and his moustaches tied up, his face because of the
scratches, and his moustaches to keep them from drooping and falling
down, in which trim he looked the most extraordinary scarecrow that
could be conceived. He kept his eyes fixed on the door, and just as he
was expecting to see the love-smitten and unhappy Altisidora make
her appearance, he saw coming in a most venerable duenna, in a long
white-bordered veil that covered and enveloped her from head to
foot. Between the fingers of her left hand she held a short lighted
candle, while with her right she shaded it to keep the light from
her eyes, which were covered by spectacles of great size, and she
advanced with noiseless steps, treading very softly.

Don Quixote kept an eye upon her from his watchtower, and
observing her costume and noting her silence, he concluded that it
must be some witch or sorceress that was coming in such a guise to
work him some mischief, and he began crossing himself at a great rate.
The spectre still advanced, and on reaching the middle of the room,
looked up and saw the energy with which Don Quixote was crossing
himself; and if he was scared by seeing such a figure as hers, she was
terrified at the sight of his; for the moment she saw his tall
yellow form with the coverlet and the bandages that disfigured him,
she gave a loud scream, and exclaiming, "Jesus! what's this I see?"
let fall the candle in her fright, and then finding herself in the
dark, turned about to make off, but stumbling on her skirts in her
consternation, she measured her length with a mighty fall.

Don Quixote in his trepidation began saying, "I conjure thee,
phantom, or whatever thou art, tell me what thou art and what thou
wouldst with me. If thou art a soul in torment, say so, and all that
my powers can do I will do for thee; for I am a Catholic Christian and
love to do good to all the world, and to this end I have embraced
the order of knight-errantry to which I belong, the province of
which extends to doing good even to souls in purgatory."

The unfortunate duenna hearing herself thus conjured, by her own
fear guessed Don Quixote's and in a low plaintive voice answered,
"Senor Don Quixote- if so be you are indeed Don Quixote- I am no
phantom or spectre or soul in purgatory, as you seem to think, but
Dona Rodriguez, duenna of honour to my lady the duchess, and I come to
you with one of those grievances your worship is wont to redress."

"Tell me, Senora Dona Rodriguez," said Don Quixote, "do you
perchance come to transact any go-between business? Because I must
tell you I am not available for anybody's purpose, thanks to the
peerless beauty of my lady Dulcinea del Toboso. In short, Senora
Dona Rodriguez, if you will leave out and put aside all love messages,
you may go and light your candle and come back, and we will discuss
all the commands you have for me and whatever you wish, saving only,
as I said, all seductive communications."

"I carry nobody's messages, senor," said the duenna; "little you
know me. Nay, I'm not far enough advanced in years to take to any such
childish tricks. God be praised I have a soul in my body still, and
all my teeth and grinders in my mouth, except one or two that the
colds, so common in this Aragon country, have robbed me of. But wait a
little, while I go and light my candle, and I will return
immediately and lay my sorrows before you as before one who relieves
those of all the world;" and without staying for an answer she quitted
the room and left Don Quixote tranquilly meditating while he waited
for her. A thousand thoughts at once suggested themselves to him on
the subject of this new adventure, and it struck him as being ill done
and worse advised in him to expose himself to the danger of breaking
his plighted faith to his lady; and said he to himself, "Who knows but
that the devil, being wily and cunning, may be trying now to entrap me
with a duenna, having failed with empresses, queens, duchesses,
marchionesses, and countesses? Many a time have I heard it said by
many a man of sense that he will sooner offer you a flat-nosed wench
than a roman-nosed one; and who knows but this privacy, this
opportunity, this silence, may awaken my sleeping desires, and lead me
in these my latter years to fall where I have never tripped? In
cases of this sort it is better to flee than to await the battle.
But I must be out of my senses to think and utter such nonsense; for
it is impossible that a long, white-hooded spectacled duenna could
stir up or excite a wanton thought in the most graceless bosom in
the world. Is there a duenna on earth that has fair flesh? Is there
a duenna in the world that escapes being ill-tempered, wrinkled, and
prudish? Avaunt, then, ye duenna crew, undelightful to all mankind.
Oh, but that lady did well who, they say, had at the end of her
reception room a couple of figures of duennas with spectacles and
lace-cushions, as if at work, and those statues served quite as well
to give an air of propriety to the room as if they had been real
duennas."

So saying he leaped off the bed, intending to close the door and not
allow Senora Rodriguez to enter; but as he went to shut it Senora
Rodriguez returned with a wax candle lighted, and having a closer view
of Don Quixote, with the coverlet round him, and his bandages and
night-cap, she was alarmed afresh, and retreating a couple of paces,
exclaimed, "Am I safe, sir knight? for I don't look upon it as a
sign of very great virtue that your worship should have got up out
of bed."

"I may well ask the same, senora," said Don Quixote; "and I do ask
whether I shall be safe from being assailed and forced?"

"Of whom and against whom do you demand that security, sir
knight?" said the duenna.

"Of you and against you I ask it," said Don Quixote; "for I am not
marble, nor are you brass, nor is it now ten o'clock in the morning,
but midnight, or a trifle past it I fancy, and we are in a room more
secluded and retired than the cave could have been where the
treacherous and daring AEneas enjoyed the fair soft-hearted Dido.
But give me your hand, senora; I require no better protection than
my own continence, and my own sense of propriety; as well as that
which is inspired by that venerable head-dress;" and so saying he
kissed her right hand and took it in his own, she yielding it to him
with equal ceremoniousness. And here Cide Hamete inserts a parenthesis
in which he says that to have seen the pair marching from the door
to the bed, linked hand in hand in this way, he would have given the
best of the two tunics he had.

Don Quixote finally got into bed, and Dona Rodriguez took her seat
on a chair at some little distance from his couch, without taking
off her spectacles or putting aside the candle. Don Quixote wrapped
the bedclothes round him and covered himself up completely, leaving
nothing but his face visible, and as soon as they had both regained
their composure he broke silence, saying, "Now, Senora Dona Rodriguez,
you may unbosom yourself and out with everything you have in your
sorrowful heart and afflicted bowels; and by me you shall be
listened to with chaste ears, and aided by compassionate exertions."

"I believe it," replied the duenna; "from your worship's gentle
and winning presence only such a Christian answer could be expected.
The fact is, then, Senor Don Quixote, that though you see me seated in
this chair, here in the middle of the kingdom of Aragon, and in the
attire of a despised outcast duenna, I am from the Asturias of Oviedo,
and of a family with which many of the best of the province are
connected by blood; but my untoward fate and the improvidence of my
parents, who, I know not how, were unseasonably reduced to poverty,
brought me to the court of Madrid, where as a provision and to avoid
greater misfortunes, my parents placed me as seamstress in the service
of a lady of quality, and I would have you know that for hemming and
sewing I have never been surpassed by any all my life. My parents left
me in service and returned to their own country, and a few years later
went, no doubt, to heaven, for they were excellent good Catholic
Christians. I was left an orphan with nothing but the miserable
wages and trifling presents that are given to servants of my sort in
palaces; but about this time, without any encouragement on my part,
one of the esquires of the household fell in love with me, a man
somewhat advanced in years, full-bearded and personable, and above all
as good a gentleman as the king himself, for he came of a mountain
stock. We did not carry on our loves with such secrecy but that they
came to the knowledge of my lady, and she, not to have any fuss
about it, had us married with the full sanction of the holy mother
Roman Catholic Church, of which marriage a daughter was born to put an
end to my good fortune, if I had any; not that I died in childbirth,
for I passed through it safely and in due season, but because
shortly afterwards my husband died of a certain shock he received, and
had I time to tell you of it I know your worship would be
surprised;" and here she began to weep bitterly and said, "Pardon
me, Senor Don Quixote, if I am unable to control myself, for every
time I think of my unfortunate husband my eyes fill up with tears. God
bless me, with what an air of dignity he used to carry my lady
behind him on a stout mule as black as jet! for in those days they did
not use coaches or chairs, as they say they do now, and ladies rode
behind their squires. This much at least I cannot help telling you,
that you may observe the good breeding and punctiliousness of my
worthy husband. As he was turning into the Calle de Santiago in
Madrid, which is rather narrow, one of the alcaldes of the Court, with
two alguacils before him, was coming out of it, and as soon as my good
squire saw him he wheeled his mule about and made as if he would
turn and accompany him. My lady, who was riding behind him, said to
him in a low voice, 'What are you about, you sneak, don't you see that
I am here?' The alcalde like a polite man pulled up his horse and said
to him, 'Proceed, senor, for it is I, rather, who ought to accompany
my lady Dona Casilda'- for that was my mistress's name. Still my
husband, cap in hand, persisted in trying to accompany the alcalde,
and seeing this my lady, filled with rage and vexation, pulled out a
big pin, or, I rather think, a bodkin, out of her needle-case and
drove it into his back with such force that my husband gave a loud
yell, and writhing fell to the ground with his lady. Her two
lacqueys ran to rise her up, and the alcalde and the alguacils did the
same; the Guadalajara gate was all in commotion -I mean the idlers
congregated there; my mistress came back on foot, and my husband
hurried away to a barber's shop protesting that he was run right
through the guts. The courtesy of my husband was noised abroad to such
an extent, that the boys gave him no peace in the street; and on
this account, and because he was somewhat shortsighted, my lady
dismissed him; and it was chagrin at this I am convinced beyond a
doubt that brought on his death. I was left a helpless widow, with a
daughter on my hands growing up in beauty like the sea-foam; at
length, however, as I had the character of being an excellent
needlewoman, my lady the duchess, then lately married to my lord the
duke, offered to take me with her to this kingdom of Aragon, and my
daughter also, and here as time went by my daughter grew up and with
her all the graces in the world; she sings like a lark, dances quick
as thought, foots it like a gipsy, reads and writes like a
schoolmaster, and does sums like a miser; of her neatness I say
nothing, for the running water is not purer, and her age is now, if my
memory serves me, sixteen years five months and three days, one more
or less. To come to the point, the son of a very rich farmer, living
in a village of my lord the duke's not very far from here, fell in
love with this girl of mine; and in short, how I know not, they came
together, and under the promise of marrying her he made a fool of my
daughter, and will not keep his word. And though my lord the duke is
aware of it (for I have complained to him, not once but many and
many a time, and entreated him to order the farmer to marry my
daughter), he turns a deaf ear and will scarcely listen to me; the
reason being that as the deceiver's father is so rich, and lends him
money, and is constantly going security for his debts, he does not
like to offend or annoy him in any way. Now, senor, I want your
worship to take it upon yourself to redress this wrong either by
entreaty or by arms; for by what all the world says you came into it
to redress grievances and right wrongs and help the unfortunate. Let
your worship put before you the unprotected condition of my
daughter, her youth, and all the perfections I have said she
possesses; and before God and on my conscience, out of all the damsels
my lady has, there is not one that comes up to the sole of her shoe,
and the one they call Altisidora, and look upon as the boldest and
gayest of them, put in comparison with my daughter, does not come
within two leagues of her. For I would have you know, senor, all is
not gold that glitters, and that same little Altisidora has more
forwardness than good looks, and more impudence than modesty;
besides being not very sound, for she has such a disagreeable breath
that one cannot bear to be near her for a moment; and even my lady the
duchess- but I'll hold my tongue, for they say that walls have ears."

"For heaven's sake, Dona Rodriguez, what ails my lady the
duchess?" asked Don Quixote.

"Adjured in that way," replied the duenna, "I cannot help
answering the question and telling the whole truth. Senor Don Quixote,
have you observed the comeliness of my lady the duchess, that smooth
complexion of hers like a burnished polished sword, those two cheeks
of milk and carmine, that gay lively step with which she treads or
rather seems to spurn the earth, so that one would fancy she went
radiating health wherever she passed? Well then, let me tell you she
may thank, first of all God, for this, and next, two issues that she
has, one in each leg, by which all the evil humours, of which the
doctors say she is full, are discharged."

"Blessed Virgin!" exclaimed Don Quixote; "and is it possible that my
lady the duchess has drains of that sort? I would not have believed it
if the barefoot friars had told it me; but as the lady Dona
Rodriguez says so, it must be so. But surely such issues, and in
such places, do not discharge humours, but liquid amber. Verily, I
do believe now that this practice of opening issues is a very
important matter for the health."

Don Quixote had hardly said this, when the chamber door flew open
with a loud bang, and with the start the noise gave her Dona Rodriguez
let the candle fall from her hand, and the room was left as dark as
a wolf's mouth, as the saying is. Suddenly the poor duenna felt two
hands seize her by the throat, so tightly that she could not croak,
while some one else, without uttering a word, very briskly hoisted
up her petticoats, and with what seemed to be a slipper began to lay
on so heartily that anyone would have felt pity for her; but
although Don Quixote felt it he never stirred from his bed, but lay
quiet and silent, nay apprehensive that his turn for a drubbing
might be coming. Nor was the apprehension an idle one; one; for
leaving the duenna (who did not dare to cry out) well basted, the
silent executioners fell upon Don Quixote, and stripping him of the
sheet and the coverlet, they pinched him so fast and so hard that he
was driven to defend himself with his fists, and all this in
marvellous silence. The battle lasted nearly half an hour, and then
the phantoms fled; Dona Rodriguez gathered up her skirts, and
bemoaning her fate went out without saying a word to Don Quixote,
and he, sorely pinched, puzzled, and dejected, remained alone, and
there we will leave him, wondering who could have been the perverse
enchanter who had reduced him to such a state; but that shall be
told in due season, for Sancho claims our attention, and the
methodical arrangement of the story demands it.




Don Quixote by Migeul de Cervantes
Category:
Romance Literature - Spanish
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