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CHAPTER XXIV

IN WHICH IS CONTINUED THE ADVENTURE OF THE SIERRA MORENA

The history relates that it was with the greatest attention Don
Quixote listened to the ragged knight of the Sierra, who began by
saying:

"Of a surety, senor, whoever you are, for I know you not, I thank
you for the proofs of kindness and courtesy you have shown me, and
would I were in a condition to requite with something more than
good-will that which you have displayed towards me in the cordial
reception you have given me; but my fate does not afford me any
other means of returning kindnesses done me save the hearty desire
to repay them."

"Mine," replied Don Quixote, "is to be of service to you, so much so
that I had resolved not to quit these mountains until I had found you,
and learned of you whether there is any kind of relief to be found for
that sorrow under which from the strangeness of your life you seem
to labour; and to search for you with all possible diligence, if
search had been necessary. And if your misfortune should prove to be
one of those that refuse admission to any sort of consolation, it
was my purpose to join you in lamenting and mourning over it, so far
as I could; for it is still some comfort in misfortune to find one who
can feel for it. And if my good intentions deserve to be
acknowledged with any kind of courtesy, I entreat you, senor, by
that which I perceive you possess in so high a degree, and likewise
conjure you by whatever you love or have loved best in life, to tell
me who you are and the cause that has brought you to live or die in
these solitudes like a brute beast, dwelling among them in a manner so
foreign to your condition as your garb and appearance show. And I
swear," added Don Quixote, "by the order of knighthood which I have
received, and by my vocation of knight-errant, if you gratify me in
this, to serve you with all the zeal my calling demands of me,
either in relieving your misfortune if it admits of relief, or in
joining you in lamenting it as I promised to do."

The Knight of the Thicket, hearing him of the Rueful Countenance
talk in this strain, did nothing but stare at him, and stare at him
again, and again survey him from head to foot; and when he had
thoroughly examined him, he said to him:

"If you have anything to give me to eat, for God's sake give it
me, and after I have eaten I will do all you ask in acknowledgment
of the goodwill you have displayed towards me."

Sancho from his sack, and the goatherd from his pouch, furnished the
Ragged One with the means of appeasing his hunger, and what they
gave him he ate like a half-witted being, so hastily that he took no
time between mouthfuls, gorging rather than swallowing; and while he
ate neither he nor they who observed him uttered a word. As soon as he
had done he made signs to them to follow him, which they did, and he
led them to a green plot which lay a little farther off round the
corner of a rock. On reaching it he stretched himself upon the
grass, and the others did the same, all keeping silence, until the
Ragged One, settling himself in his place, said:

"If it is your wish, sirs, that I should disclose in a few words the
surpassing extent of my misfortunes, you must promise not to break the
thread of my sad story with any question or other interruption, for
the instant you do so the tale I tell will come to an end."

These words of the Ragged One reminded Don Quixote of the tale his
squire had told him, when he failed to keep count of the goats that
had crossed the river and the story remained unfinished; but to return
to the Ragged One, he went on to say:

"I give you this warning because I wish to pass briefly over the
story of my misfortunes, for recalling them to memory only serves to
add fresh ones, and the less you question me the sooner shall I make
an end of the recital, though I shall not omit to relate anything of
importance in order fully to satisfy your curiosity."

Don Quixote gave the promise for himself and the others, and with
this assurance he began as follows:

"My name is Cardenio, my birthplace one of the best cities of this
Andalusia, my family noble, my parents rich, my misfortune so great
that my parents must have wept and my family grieved over it without
being able by their wealth to lighten it; for the gifts of fortune can
do little to relieve reverses sent by Heaven. In that same country
there was a heaven in which love had placed all the glory I could
desire; such was the beauty of Luscinda, a damsel as noble and as rich
as I, but of happier fortunes, and of less firmness than was due to so
worthy a passion as mine. This Luscinda I loved, worshipped, and
adored from my earliest and tenderest years, and she loved me in all
the innocence and sincerity of childhood. Our parents were aware of
our feelings, and were not sorry to perceive them, for they saw
clearly that as they ripened they must lead at last to a marriage
between us, a thing that seemed almost prearranged by the equality
of our families and wealth. We grew up, and with our growth grew the
love between us, so that the father of Luscinda felt bound for
propriety's sake to refuse me admission to his house, in this
perhaps imitating the parents of that Thisbe so celebrated by the
poets, and this refusal but added love to love and flame to flame; for
though they enforced silence upon our tongues they could not impose it
upon our pens, which can make known the heart's secrets to a loved one
more freely than tongues; for many a time the presence of the object
of love shakes the firmest will and strikes dumb the boldest tongue.
Ah heavens! how many letters did I write her, and how many dainty
modest replies did I receive! how many ditties and love-songs did I
compose in which my heart declared and made known its feelings,
described its ardent longings, revelled in its recollections and
dallied with its desires! At length growing impatient and feeling my
heart languishing with longing to see her, I resolved to put into
execution and carry out what seemed to me the best mode of winning
my desired and merited reward, to ask her of her father for my
lawful wife, which I did. To this his answer was that he thanked me
for the disposition I showed to do honour to him and to regard
myself as honoured by the bestowal of his treasure; but that as my
father was alive it was his by right to make this demand, for if it
were not in accordance with his full will and pleasure, Luscinda was
not to be taken or given by stealth. I thanked him for his kindness,
reflecting that there was reason in what he said, and that my father
would assent to it as soon as I should tell him, and with that view
I went the very same instant to let him know what my desires were.
When I entered the room where he was I found him with an open letter
in his hand, which, before I could utter a word, he gave me, saying,
'By this letter thou wilt see, Cardenio, the disposition the Duke
Ricardo has to serve thee.' This Duke Ricardo, as you, sirs,
probably know already, is a grandee of Spain who has his seat in the
best part of this Andalusia. I took and read the letter, which was
couched in terms so flattering that even I myself felt it would be
wrong in my father not to comply with the request the duke made in it,
which was that he would send me immediately to him, as he wished me to
become the companion, not servant, of his eldest son, and would take
upon himself the charge of placing me in a position corresponding to
the esteem in which he held me. On reading the letter my voice
failed me, and still more when I heard my father say, 'Two days
hence thou wilt depart, Cardenio, in accordance with the duke's
wish, and give thanks to God who is opening a road to thee by which
thou mayest attain what I know thou dost deserve; and to these words
he added others of fatherly counsel. The time for my departure
arrived; I spoke one night to Luscinda, I told her all that had
occurred, as I did also to her father, entreating him to allow some
delay, and to defer the disposal of her hand until I should see what
the Duke Ricardo sought of me: he gave me the promise, and she
confirmed it with vows and swoonings unnumbered. Finally, I
presented myself to the duke, and was received and treated by him so
kindly that very soon envy began to do its work, the old servants
growing envious of me, and regarding the duke's inclination to show me
favour as an injury to themselves. But the one to whom my arrival gave
the greatest pleasure was the duke's second son, Fernando by name, a
gallant youth, of noble, generous, and amorous disposition, who very
soon made so intimate a friend of me that it was remarked by
everybody; for though the elder was attached to me, and showed me
kindness, he did not carry his affectionate treatment to the same
length as Don Fernando. It so happened, then, that as between
friends no secret remains unshared, and as the favour I enjoyed with
Don Fernando had grown into friendship, he made all his thoughts known
to me, and in particular a love affair which troubled his mind a
little. He was deeply in love with a peasant girl, a vassal of his
father's, the daughter of wealthy parents, and herself so beautiful,
modest, discreet, and virtuous, that no one who knew her was able to
decide in which of these respects she was most highly gifted or most
excelled. The attractions of the fair peasant raised the passion of
Don Fernando to such a point that, in order to gain his object and
overcome her virtuous resolutions, he determined to pledge his word to
her to become her husband, for to attempt it in any other way was to
attempt an impossibility. Bound to him as I was by friendship, I
strove by the best arguments and the most forcible examples I could
think of to restrain and dissuade him from such a course; but
perceiving I produced no effect I resolved to make the Duke Ricardo,
his father, acquainted with the matter; but Don Fernando, being
sharp-witted and shrewd, foresaw and apprehended this, perceiving that
by my duty as a good servant I was bound not to keep concealed a thing
so much opposed to the honour of my lord the duke; and so, to
mislead and deceive me, he told me he could find no better way of
effacing from his mind the beauty that so enslaved him than by
absenting himself for some months, and that he wished the absence to
be effected by our going, both of us, to my father's house under the
pretence, which he would make to the duke, of going to see and buy
some fine horses that there were in my city, which produces the best
in the world. When I heard him say so, even if his resolution had
not been so good a one I should have hailed it as one of the
happiest that could be imagined, prompted by my affection, seeing what
a favourable chance and opportunity it offered me of returning to
see my Luscinda. With this thought and wish I commended his idea and
encouraged his design, advising him to put it into execution as
quickly as possible, as, in truth, absence produced its effect in
spite of the most deeply rooted feelings. But, as afterwards appeared,
when he said this to me he had already enjoyed the peasant girl
under the title of husband, and was waiting for an opportunity of
making it known with safety to himself, being in dread of what his
father the duke would do when he came to know of his folly. It
happened, then, that as with young men love is for the most part
nothing more than appetite, which, as its final object is enjoyment,
comes to an end on obtaining it, and that which seemed to be love
takes to flight, as it cannot pass the limit fixed by nature, which
fixes no limit to true love- what I mean is that after Don Fernando
had enjoyed this peasant girl his passion subsided and his eagerness
cooled, and if at first he feigned a wish to absent himself in order
to cure his love, he was now in reality anxious to go to avoid keeping
his promise.

"The duke gave him permission, and ordered me to accompany him; we
arrived at my city, and my father gave him the reception due to his
rank; I saw Luscinda without delay, and, though it had not been dead
or deadened, my love gathered fresh life. To my sorrow I told the
story of it to Don Fernando, for I thought that in virtue of the great
friendship he bore me I was bound to conceal nothing from him. I
extolled her beauty, her gaiety, her wit, so warmly, that my praises
excited in him a desire to see a damsel adorned by such attractions.
To my misfortune I yielded to it, showing her to him one night by
the light of a taper at a window where we used to talk to one another.
As she appeared to him in her dressing-gown, she drove all the
beauties he had seen until then out of his recollection; speech failed
him, his head turned, he was spell-bound, and in the end love-smitten,
as you will see in the course of the story of my misfortune; and to
inflame still further his passion, which he hid from me and revealed
to Heaven alone, it so happened that one day he found a note of hers
entreating me to demand her of her father in marriage, so delicate, so
modest, and so tender, that on reading it he told me that in
Luscinda alone were combined all the charms of beauty and
understanding that were distributed among all the other women in the
world. It is true, and I own it now, that though I knew what good
cause Don Fernando had to praise Luscinda, it gave me uneasiness to
hear these praises from his mouth, and I began to fear, and with
reason to feel distrust of him, for there was no moment when he was
not ready to talk of Luscinda, and he would start the subject
himself even though he dragged it in unseasonably, a circumstance that
aroused in me a certain amount of jealousy; not that I feared any
change in the constancy or faith of Luscinda; but still my fate led me
to forebode what she assured me against. Don Fernando contrived always
to read the letters I sent to Luscinda and her answers to me, under
the pretence that he enjoyed the wit and sense of both. It so
happened, then, that Luscinda having begged of me a book of chivalry
to read, one that she was very fond of, Amadis of Gaul-"

Don Quixote no sooner heard a book of chivalry mentioned, than he
said:

"Had your worship told me at the beginning of your story that the
Lady Luscinda was fond of books of chivalry, no other laudation
would have been requisite to impress upon me the superiority of her
understanding, for it could not have been of the excellence you
describe had a taste for such delightful reading been wanting; so,
as far as I am concerned, you need waste no more words in describing
her beauty, worth, and intelligence; for, on merely hearing what her
taste was, I declare her to be the most beautiful and the most
intelligent woman in the world; and I wish your worship had, along
with Amadis of Gaul, sent her the worthy Don Rugel of Greece, for I
know the Lady Luscinda would greatly relish Daraida and Garaya, and
the shrewd sayings of the shepherd Darinel, and the admirable verses
of his bucolics, sung and delivered by him with such sprightliness,
wit, and ease; but a time may come when this omission can be remedied,
and to rectify it nothing more is needed than for your worship to be
so good as to come with me to my village, for there I can give you
more than three hundred books which are the delight of my soul and the
entertainment of my life;- though it occurs to me that I have not
got one of them now, thanks to the spite of wicked and envious
enchanters;- but pardon me for having broken the promise we made not
to interrupt your discourse; for when I hear chivalry or
knights-errant mentioned, I can no more help talking about them than
the rays of the sun can help giving heat, or those of the moon
moisture; pardon me, therefore, and proceed, for that is more to the
purpose now."

While Don Quixote was saying this, Cardenio allowed his head to fall
upon his breast, and seemed plunged in deep thought; and though
twice Don Quixote bade him go on with his story, he neither looked
up nor uttered a word in reply; but after some time he raised his head
and said, "I cannot get rid of the idea, nor will anyone in the
world remove it, or make me think otherwise -and he would be a
blockhead who would hold or believe anything else than that that
arrant knave Master Elisabad made free with Queen Madasima."

"That is not true, by all that's good," said Don Quixote in high
wrath, turning upon him angrily, as his way was; "and it is a very
great slander, or rather villainy. Queen Madasima was a very
illustrious lady, and it is not to be supposed that so exalted a
princess would have made free with a quack; and whoever maintains
the contrary lies like a great scoundrel, and I will give him to
know it, on foot or on horseback, armed or unarmed, by night or by
day, or as he likes best."

Cardenio was looking at him steadily, and his mad fit having now
come upon him, he had no disposition to go on with his story, nor
would Don Quixote have listened to it, so much had what he had heard
about Madasima disgusted him. Strange to say, he stood up for her as
if she were in earnest his veritable born lady; to such a pass had his
unholy books brought him. Cardenio, then, being, as I said, now mad,
when he heard himself given the lie, and called a scoundrel and
other insulting names, not relishing the jest, snatched up a stone
that he found near him, and with it delivered such a blow on Don
Quixote's breast that he laid him on his back. Sancho Panza, seeing
his master treated in this fashion, attacked the madman with his
closed fist; but the Ragged One received him in such a way that with a
blow of his fist he stretched him at his feet, and then mounting
upon him crushed his ribs to his own satisfaction; the goatherd, who
came to the rescue, shared the same fate; and having beaten and
pummelled them all he left them and quietly withdrew to his
hiding-place on the mountain. Sancho rose, and with the rage he felt
at finding himself so belaboured without deserving it, ran to take
vengeance on the goatherd, accusing him of not giving them warning
that this man was at times taken with a mad fit, for if they had known
it they would have been on their guard to protect themselves. The
goatherd replied that he had said so, and that if he had not heard
him, that was no fault of his. Sancho retorted, and the goatherd
rejoined, and the altercation ended in their seizing each other by the
beard, and exchanging such fisticuffs that if Don Quixote had not made
peace between them, they would have knocked one another to pieces.

"Leave me alone, Sir Knight of the Rueful Countenance," said Sancho,
grappling with the goatherd, "for of this fellow, who is a clown
like myself, and no dubbed knight, I can safely take satisfaction
for the affront he has offered me, fighting with him hand to hand like
an honest man."

"That is true," said Don Quixote, "but I know that he is not to
blame for what has happened."

With this he pacified them, and again asked the goatherd if it would
be possible to find Cardenio, as he felt the greatest anxiety to
know the end of his story. The goatherd told him, as he had told him
before, that there was no knowing of a certainty where his lair was;
but that if he wandered about much in that neighbourhood he could
not fail to fall in with him either in or out of his senses.




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