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CHAPTER LXIX

OF THE STRANGEST AND MOST EXTRAORDINARY ADVENTURE THAT BEFELL DON
QUIXOTE IN THE WHOLE COURSE OF THIS GREAT HISTORY


The horsemen dismounted, and, together with the men on foot, without
a moment's delay taking up Sancho and Don Quixote bodily, they carried
them into the court, all round which near a hundred torches fixed in
sockets were burning, besides above five hundred lamps in the
corridors, so that in spite of the night, which was somewhat dark, the
want of daylight could not be perceived. In the middle of the court
was a catafalque, raised about two yards above the ground and
covered completely by an immense canopy of black velvet, and on the
steps all round it white wax tapers burned in more than a hundred
silver candlesticks. Upon the catafalque was seen the dead body of a
damsel so lovely that by her beauty she made death itself look
beautiful. She lay with her head resting upon a cushion of brocade and
crowned with a garland of sweet-smelling flowers of divers sorts,
her hands crossed upon her bosom, and between them a branch of
yellow palm of victory. On one side of the court was erected a
stage, where upon two chairs were seated two persons who from having
crowns on their heads and sceptres in their hands appeared to be kings
of some sort, whether real or mock ones. By the side of this stage,
which was reached by steps, were two other chairs on which the men
carrying the prisoners seated Don Quixote and Sancho, all in
silence, and by signs giving them to understand that they too were
to he silent; which, however, they would have been without any
signs, for their amazement at all they saw held them tongue-tied.
And now two persons of distinction, who were at once recognised by Don
Quixote as his hosts the duke and duchess, ascended the stage attended
by a numerous suite, and seated themselves on two gorgeous chairs
close to the two kings, as they seemed to be. Who would not have
been amazed at this? Nor was this all, for Don Quixote had perceived
that the dead body on the catafalque was that of the fair
Altisidora. As the duke and duchess mounted the stage Don Quixote
and Sancho rose and made them a profound obeisance, which they
returned by bowing their heads slightly. At this moment an official
crossed over, and approaching Sancho threw over him a robe of black
buckram painted all over with flames of fire, and taking off his cap
put upon his head a mitre such as those undergoing the sentence of the
Holy Office wear; and whispered in his ear that he must not open his
lips, or they would put a gag upon him, or take his life. Sancho
surveyed himself from head to foot and saw himself all ablaze with
flames; but as they did not burn him, he did not care two farthings
for them. He took off the mitre and seeing painted with devils he
put it on again, saying to himself, "Well, so far those don't burn
me nor do these carry me off." Don Quixote surveyed him too, and
though fear had got the better of his faculties, he could not help
smiling to see the figure Sancho presented. And now from underneath
the catafalque, so it seemed, there rose a low sweet sound of
flutes, which, coming unbroken by human voice (for there silence
itself kept silence), had a soft and languishing effect. Then,
beside the pillow of what seemed to be the dead body, suddenly
appeared a fair youth in a Roman habit, who, to the accompaniment of a
harp which he himself played, sang in a sweet and clear voice these
two stanzas:

While fair Altisidora, who the sport
Of cold Don Quixote's cruelty hath been,
Returns to life, and in this magic court
The dames in sables come to grace the scene,
And while her matrons all in seemly sort
My lady robes in baize and bombazine,
Her beauty and her sorrows will I sing
With defter quill than touched the Thracian string.

But not in life alone, methinks, to me
Belongs the office; Lady, when my tongue
Is cold in death, believe me, unto thee
My voice shall raise its tributary song.
My soul, from this strait prison-house set free,
As o'er the Stygian lake it floats along,
Thy praises singing still shall hold its way,
And make the waters of oblivion stay.

At this point one of the two that looked like kings exclaimed,
"Enough, enough, divine singer! It would be an endless task to put
before us now the death and the charms of the peerless Altisidora, not
dead as the ignorant world imagines, but living in the voice of fame
and in the penance which Sancho Panza, here present, has to undergo to
restore her to the long-lost light. Do thou, therefore, O
Rhadamanthus, who sittest in judgment with me in the murky caverns
of Dis, as thou knowest all that the inscrutable fates have decreed
touching the resuscitation of this damsel, announce and declare it
at once, that the happiness we look forward to from her restoration be
no longer deferred."

No sooner had Minos the fellow judge of Rhadamanthus said this, than
Rhadamanthus rising up said:

"Ho, officials of this house, high and low, great and small, make
haste hither one and all, and print on Sancho's face four-and-twenty
smacks, and give him twelve pinches and six pin thrusts in the back
and arms; for upon this ceremony depends the restoration of
Altisidora."

On hearing this Sancho broke silence and cried out, "By all that's
good, I'll as soon let my face be smacked or handled as turn Moor.
Body o' me! What has handling my face got to do with the
resurrection of this damsel? 'The old woman took kindly to the
blits; they enchant Dulcinea, and whip me in order to disenchant
her; Altisidora dies of ailments God was pleased to send her, and to
bring her to life again they must give me four-and-twenty smacks,
and prick holes in my body with pins, and raise weals on my arms
with pinches! Try those jokes on a brother-in-law; 'I'm an old dog,
and "tus, tus" is no use with me.'"

"Thou shalt die," said Rhadamanthus in a loud voice; "relent, thou
tiger; humble thyself, proud Nimrod; suffer and he silent, for no
impossibilities are asked of thee; it is not for thee to inquire
into the difficulties in this matter; smacked thou must be, pricked
thou shalt see thyself, and with pinches thou must be made to howl.
Ho, I say, officials, obey my orders; or by the word of an honest man,
ye shall see what ye were born for."

At this some six duennas, advancing across the court, made their
appearance in procession, one after the other, four of them with
spectacles, and all with their right hands uplifted, showing four
fingers of wrist to make their hands look longer, as is the fashion
now-a-days. No sooner had Sancho caught sight of them than,
bellowing like a bull, he exclaimed, "I might let myself be handled by
all the world; but allow duennas to touch me- not a bit of it! Scratch
my face, as my master was served in this very castle; run me through
the body with burnished daggers; pinch my arms with red-hot pincers;
I'll bear all in patience to serve these gentlefolk; but I won't let
duennas touch me, though the devil should carry me off!"

Here Don Quixote, too, broke silence, saying to Sancho, "Have
patience, my son, and gratify these noble persons, and give all thanks
to heaven that it has infused such virtue into thy person, that by its
sufferings thou canst disenchant the enchanted and restore to life the
dead."

The duennas were now close to Sancho, and he, having become more
tractable and reasonable, settling himself well in his chair presented
his face and beard to the first, who delivered him a smack very
stoutly laid on, and then made him a low curtsey.

"Less politeness and less paint, senora duenna," said Sancho; "by
God your hands smell of vinegar-wash."

In fine, all the duennas smacked him and several others of the
household pinched him; but what he could not stand was being pricked
by the pins; and so, apparently out of patience, he started up out
of his chair, and seizing a lighted torch that stood near him fell
upon the duennas and the whole set of his tormentors, exclaiming,
"Begone, ye ministers of hell; I'm not made of brass not to feel
such out-of-the-way tortures."

At this instant Altisidora, who probably was tired of having been so
long lying on her back, turned on her side; seeing which the
bystanders cried out almost with one voice, "Altisidora is alive!
Altisidora lives!"

Rhadamanthus bade Sancho put away his wrath, as the object they
had in view was now attained. When Don Quixote saw Altisidora move, he
went on his knees to Sancho saying to him, "Now is the time, son of my
bowels, not to call thee my squire, for thee to give thyself some of
those lashes thou art bound to lay on for the disenchantment of
Dulcinea. Now, I say, is the time when the virtue that is in thee is
ripe, and endowed with efficacy to work the good that is looked for
from thee."

To which Sancho made answer, "That's trick upon trick, I think,
and not honey upon pancakes; a nice thing it would be for a whipping
to come now, on the top of pinches, smacks, and pin-proddings! You had
better take a big stone and tie it round my neck, and pitch me into
a well; I should not mind it much, if I'm to be always made the cow of
the wedding for the cure of other people's ailments. Leave me alone;
or else by God I'll fling the whole thing to the dogs, let come what
may."

Altisidora had by this time sat up on the catafalque, and as she did
so the clarions sounded, accompanied by the flutes, and the voices
of all present exclaiming, "Long life to Altisidora! long life to
Altisidora!" The duke and duchess and the kings Minos and Rhadamanthus
stood up, and all, together with Don Quixote and Sancho, advanced to
receive her and take her down from the catafalque; and she, making
as though she were recovering from a swoon, bowed her head to the duke
and duchess and to the kings, and looking sideways at Don Quixote,
said to him, "God forgive thee, insensible knight, for through thy
cruelty I have been, to me it seems, more than a thousand years in the
other world; and to thee, the most compassionate upon earth, I
render thanks for the life I am now in possession of. From this day
forth, friend Sancho, count as thine six smocks of mine which I bestow
upon thee, to make as many shirts for thyself, and if they are not all
quite whole, at any rate they are all clean."

Sancho kissed her hands in gratitude, kneeling, and with the mitre
in his hand. The duke bade them take it from him, and give him back
his cap and doublet and remove the flaming robe. Sancho begged the
duke to let them leave him the robe and mitre; as he wanted to take
them home for a token and memento of that unexampled adventure. The
duchess said they must leave them with him; for he knew already what a
great friend of his she was. The duke then gave orders that the
court should be cleared, and that all should retire to their chambers,
and that Don Quixote and Sancho should be conducted to their old
quarters.




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