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CHAPTER XXXVI

WHICH TREATS OF MORE CURIOUS INCIDENTS THAT OCCURRED AT THE INN

Just at that instant the landlord, who was standing at the gate of
the inn, exclaimed, "Here comes a fine troop of guests; if they stop
here we may say gaudeamus."

"What are they?" said Cardenio.

"Four men," said the landlord, "riding a la jineta, with lances
and bucklers, and all with black veils, and with them there is a woman
in white on a side-saddle, whose face is also veiled, and two
attendants on foot."

"Are they very near?" said the curate.

"So near," answered the landlord, "that here they come."

Hearing this Dorothea covered her face, and Cardenio retreated
into Don Quixote's room, and they hardly had time to do so before
the whole party the host had described entered the inn, and the four
that were on horseback, who were of highbred appearance and bearing,
dismounted, and came forward to take down the woman who rode on the
side-saddle, and one of them taking her in his arms placed her in a
chair that stood at the entrance of the room where Cardenio had hidden
himself. All this time neither she nor they had removed their veils or
spoken a word, only on sitting down on the chair the woman gave a deep
sigh and let her arms fall like one that was ill and weak. The
attendants on foot then led the horses away to the stable. Observing
this the curate, curious to know who these people in such a dress
and preserving such silence were, went to where the servants were
standing and put the question to one of them, who answered him.

"Faith, sir, I cannot tell you who they are, I only know they seem
to be people of distinction, particularly he who advanced to take
the lady you saw in his arms; and I say so because all the rest show
him respect, and nothing is done except what he directs and orders."

"And the lady, who is she?" asked the curate.

"That I cannot tell you either," said the servant, "for I have not
seen her face all the way: I have indeed heard her sigh many times and
utter such groans that she seems to be giving up the ghost every time;
but it is no wonder if we do not know more than we have told you, as
my comrade and I have only been in their company two days, for
having met us on the road they begged and persuaded us to accompany
them to Andalusia, promising to pay us well."

"And have you heard any of them called by his name?" asked the
curate.

"No, indeed," replied the servant; "they all preserve a marvellous
silence on the road, for not a sound is to be heard among them
except the poor lady's sighs and sobs, which make us pity her; and
we feel sure that wherever it is she is going, it is against her will,
and as far as one can judge from her dress she is a nun or, what is
more likely, about to become one; and perhaps it is because taking the
vows is not of her own free will, that she is so unhappy as she
seems to be."

"That may well be," said the curate, and leaving them he returned to
where Dorothea was, who, hearing the veiled lady sigh, moved by
natural compassion drew near to her and said, "What are you
suffering from, senora? If it be anything that women are accustomed
and know how to relieve, I offer you my services with all my heart."

To this the unhappy lady made no reply; and though Dorothea repeated
her offers more earnestly she still kept silence, until the
gentleman with the veil, who, the servant said, was obeyed by the
rest, approached and said to Dorothea, "Do not give yourself the
trouble, senora, of making any offers to that woman, for it is her way
to give no thanks for anything that is done for her; and do not try to
make her answer unless you want to hear some lie from her lips."

"I have never told a lie," was the immediate reply of her who had
been silent until now; "on the contrary, it is because I am so
truthful and so ignorant of lying devices that I am now in this
miserable condition; and this I call you yourself to witness, for it
is my unstained truth that has made you false and a liar."

Cardenio heard these words clearly and distinctly, being quite close
to the speaker, for there was only the door of Don Quixote's room
between them, and the instant he did so, uttering a loud exclamation
he cried, "Good God! what is this I hear? What voice is this that
has reached my ears?" Startled at the voice the lady turned her
head; and not seeing the speaker she stood up and attempted to enter
the room; observing which the gentleman held her back, preventing
her from moving a step. In her agitation and sudden movement the
silk with which she had covered her face fell off and disclosed a
countenance of incomparable and marvellous beauty, but pale and
terrified; for she kept turning her eyes, everywhere she could
direct her gaze, with an eagerness that made her look as if she had
lost her senses, and so marked that it excited the pity of Dorothea
and all who beheld her, though they knew not what caused it. The
gentleman grasped her firmly by the shoulders, and being so fully
occupied with holding her back, he was unable to put a hand to his
veil which was falling off, as it did at length entirely, and
Dorothea, who was holding the lady in her arms, raising her eyes saw
that he who likewise held her was her husband, Don Fernando. The
instant she recognised him, with a prolonged plaintive cry drawn
from the depths of her heart, she fell backwards fainting, and but for
the barber being close by to catch her in his arms, she would have
fallen completely to the ground. The curate at once hastened to
uncover her face and throw water on it, and as he did so Don Fernando,
for he it was who held the other in his arms, recognised her and stood
as if death-stricken by the sight; not, however, relaxing his grasp of
Luscinda, for it was she that was struggling to release herself from
his hold, having recognised Cardenio by his voice, as he had
recognised her. Cardenio also heard Dorothea's cry as she fell
fainting, and imagining that it came from his Luscinda burst forth
in terror from the room, and the first thing he saw was Don Fernando
with Luscinda in his arms. Don Fernando, too, knew Cardenio at once;
and all three, Luscinda, Cardenio, and Dorothea, stood in silent
amazement scarcely knowing what had happened to them.

They gazed at one another without speaking, Dorothea at Don
Fernando, Don Fernando at Cardenio, Cardenio at Luscinda, and Luscinda
at Cardenio. The first to break silence was Luscinda, who thus
addressed Don Fernando: "Leave me, Senor Don Fernando, for the sake of
what you owe to yourself; if no other reason will induce you, leave me
to cling to the wall of which I am the ivy, to the support from
which neither your importunities, nor your threats, nor your promises,
nor your gifts have been able to detach me. See how Heaven, by ways
strange and hidden from our sight, has brought me face to face with my
true husband; and well you know by dear-bought experience that death
alone will be able to efface him from my memory. May this plain
declaration, then, lead you, as you can do nothing else, to turn
your love into rage, your affection into resentment, and so to take my
life; for if I yield it up in the presence of my beloved husband I
count it well bestowed; it may be by my death he will be convinced
that I kept my faith to him to the last moment of life."

Meanwhile Dorothea had come to herself, and had heard Luscinda's
words, by means of which she divined who she was; but seeing that
Don Fernando did not yet release her or reply to her, summoning up her
resolution as well as she could she rose and knelt at his feet, and
with a flood of bright and touching tears addressed him thus:

"If, my lord, the beams of that sun that thou holdest eclipsed in
thine arms did not dazzle and rob thine eyes of sight thou wouldst
have seen by this time that she who kneels at thy feet is, so long
as thou wilt have it so, the unhappy and unfortunate Dorothea. I am
that lowly peasant girl whom thou in thy goodness or for thy
pleasure wouldst raise high enough to call herself thine; I am she who
in the seclusion of innocence led a contented life until at the
voice of thy importunity, and thy true and tender passion, as it
seemed, she opened the gates of her modesty and surrendered to thee
the keys of her liberty; a gift received by thee but thanklessly, as
is clearly shown by my forced retreat to the place where thou dost
find me, and by thy appearance under the circumstances in which I
see thee. Nevertheless, I would not have thee suppose that I have come
here driven by my shame; it is only grief and sorrow at seeing
myself forgotten by thee that have led me. It was thy will to make
me thine, and thou didst so follow thy will, that now, even though
thou repentest, thou canst not help being mine. Bethink thee, my lord,
the unsurpassable affection I bear thee may compensate for the
beauty and noble birth for which thou wouldst desert me. Thou canst
not be the fair Luscinda's because thou art mine, nor can she be thine
because she is Cardenio's; and it will be easier, remember, to bend
thy will to love one who adores thee, than to lead one to love thee
who abhors thee now. Thou didst address thyself to my simplicity, thou
didst lay siege to my virtue, thou wert not ignorant of my station,
well dost thou know how I yielded wholly to thy will; there is no
ground or reason for thee to plead deception, and if it be so, as it
is, and if thou art a Christian as thou art a gentleman, why dost thou
by such subterfuges put off making me as happy at last as thou didst
at first? And if thou wilt not have me for what I am, thy true and
lawful wife, at least take and accept me as thy slave, for so long
as I am thine I will count myself happy and fortunate. Do not by
deserting me let my shame become the talk of the gossips in the
streets; make not the old age of my parents miserable; for the loyal
services they as faithful vassals have ever rendered thine are not
deserving of such a return; and if thou thinkest it will debase thy
blood to mingle it with mine, reflect that there is little or no
nobility in the world that has not travelled the same road, and that
in illustrious lineages it is not the woman's blood that is of
account; and, moreover, that true nobility consists in virtue, and
if thou art wanting in that, refusing me what in justice thou owest
me, then even I have higher claims to nobility than thine. To make
an end, senor, these are my last words to thee: whether thou wilt,
or wilt not, I am thy wife; witness thy words, which must not and
ought not to be false, if thou dost pride thyself on that for want
of which thou scornest me; witness the pledge which thou didst give
me, and witness Heaven, which thou thyself didst call to witness the
promise thou hadst made me; and if all this fail, thy own conscience
will not fail to lift up its silent voice in the midst of all thy
gaiety, and vindicate the truth of what I say and mar thy highest
pleasure and enjoyment."

All this and more the injured Dorothea delivered with such earnest
feeling and such tears that all present, even those who came with
Don Fernando, were constrained to join her in them. Don Fernando
listened to her without replying, until, ceasing to speak, she gave
way to such sobs and sighs that it must have been a heart of brass
that was not softened by the sight of so great sorrow. Luscinda
stood regarding her with no less compassion for her sufferings than
admiration for her intelligence and beauty, and would have gone to her
to say some words of comfort to her, but was prevented by Don
Fernando's grasp which held her fast. He, overwhelmed with confusion
and astonishment, after regarding Dorothea for some moments with a
fixed gaze, opened his arms, and, releasing Luscinda, exclaimed:

"Thou hast conquered, fair Dorothea, thou hast conquered, for it
is impossible to have the heart to deny the united force of so many
truths."

Luscinda in her feebleness was on the point of falling to the ground
when Don Fernando released her, but Cardenio, who stood near, having
retreated behind Don Fernando to escape recognition, casting fear
aside and regardless of what might happen, ran forward to support her,
and said as he clasped her in his arms, "If Heaven in its compassion
is willing to let thee rest at last, mistress of my heart, true,
constant, and fair, nowhere canst thou rest more safely than in
these arms that now receive thee, and received thee before when
fortune permitted me to call thee mine."

At these words Luscinda looked up at Cardenio, at first beginning to
recognise him by his voice and then satisfying herself by her eyes
that it was he, and hardly knowing what she did, and heedless of all
considerations of decorum, she flung her arms around his neck and
pressing her face close to his, said, "Yes, my dear lord, you are
the true master of this your slave, even though adverse fate interpose
again, and fresh dangers threaten this life that hangs on yours."

A strange sight was this for Don Fernando and those that stood
around, filled with surprise at an incident so unlooked for.
Dorothea fancied that Don Fernando changed colour and looked as though
he meant to take vengeance on Cardenio, for she observed him put his
hand to his sword; and the instant the idea struck her, with wonderful
quickness she clasped him round the knees, and kissing them and
holding him so as to prevent his moving, she said, while her tears
continued to flow, "What is it thou wouldst do, my only refuge, in
this unforeseen event? Thou hast thy wife at thy feet, and she whom
thou wouldst have for thy wife is in the arms of her husband:
reflect whether it will be right for thee, whether it will be possible
for thee to undo what Heaven has done, or whether it will be
becoming in thee to seek to raise her to be thy mate who in spite of
every obstacle, and strong in her truth and constancy, is before thine
eyes, bathing with the tears of love the face and bosom of her
lawful husband. For God's sake I entreat of thee, for thine own I
implore thee, let not this open manifestation rouse thy anger; but
rather so calm it as to allow these two lovers to live in peace and
quiet without any interference from thee so long as Heaven permits
them; and in so doing thou wilt prove the generosity of thy lofty
noble spirit, and the world shall see that with thee reason has more
influence than passion."

All the time Dorothea was speaking, Cardenio, though he held
Luscinda in his arms, never took his eyes off Don Fernando,
determined, if he saw him make any hostile movement, to try and defend
himself and resist as best he could all who might assail him, though
it should cost him his life. But now Don Fernando's friends, as well
as the curate and the barber, who had been present all the while,
not forgetting the worthy Sancho Panza, ran forward and gathered round
Don Fernando, entreating him to have regard for the tears of Dorothea,
and not suffer her reasonable hopes to be disappointed, since, as they
firmly believed, what she said was but the truth; and bidding him
observe that it was not, as it might seem, by accident, but by a
special disposition of Providence that they had all met in a place
where no one could have expected a meeting. And the curate bade him
remember that only death could part Luscinda from Cardenio; that
even if some sword were to separate them they would think their
death most happy; and that in a case that admitted of no remedy his
wisest course was, by conquering and putting a constraint upon
himself, to show a generous mind, and of his own accord suffer these
two to enjoy the happiness Heaven had granted them. He bade him,
too, turn his eyes upon the beauty of Dorothea and he would see that
few if any could equal much less excel her; while to that beauty
should be added her modesty and the surpassing love she bore him.
But besides all this, he reminded him that if he prided himself on
being a gentleman and a Christian, he could not do otherwise than keep
his plighted word; and that in doing so he would obey God and meet the
approval of all sensible people, who know and recognised it to be
the privilege of beauty, even in one of humble birth, provided
virtue accompany it, to be able to raise itself to the level of any
rank, without any slur upon him who places it upon an equality with
himself; and furthermore that when the potent sway of passion
asserts itself, so long as there be no mixture of sin in it, he is not
to be blamed who gives way to it.

To be brief, they added to these such other forcible arguments
that Don Fernando's manly heart, being after all nourished by noble
blood, was touched, and yielded to the truth which, even had he wished
it, he could not gainsay; and he showed his submission, and acceptance
of the good advice that had been offered to him, by stooping down
and embracing Dorothea, saying to her, "Rise, dear lady, it is not
right that what I hold in my heart should be kneeling at my feet;
and if until now I have shown no sign of what I own, it may have
been by Heaven's decree in order that, seeing the constancy with which
you love me, I may learn to value you as you deserve. What I entreat
of you is that you reproach me not with my transgression and
grievous wrong-doing; for the same cause and force that drove me to
make you mine impelled me to struggle against being yours; and to
prove this, turn and look at the eyes of the now happy Luscinda, and
you will see in them an excuse for all my errors: and as she has found
and gained the object of her desires, and I have found in you what
satisfies all my wishes, may she live in peace and contentment as many
happy years with her Cardenio, as on my knees I pray Heaven to allow
me to live with my Dorothea;" and with these words he once more
embraced her and pressed his face to hers with so much tenderness that
he had to take great heed to keep his tears from completing the
proof of his love and repentance in the sight of all. Not so Luscinda,
and Cardenio, and almost all the others, for they shed so many
tears, some in their own happiness, some at that of the others, that
one would have supposed a heavy calamity had fallen upon them all.
Even Sancho Panza was weeping; though afterwards he said he only
wept because he saw that Dorothea was not as he fancied the queen
Micomicona, of whom he expected such great favours. Their wonder as
well as their weeping lasted some time, and then Cardenio and Luscinda
went and fell on their knees before Don Fernando, returning him thanks
for the favour he had rendered them in language so grateful that he
knew not how to answer them, and raising them up embraced them with
every mark of affection and courtesy.

He then asked Dorothea how she had managed to reach a place so far
removed from her own home, and she in a few fitting words told all
that she had previously related to Cardenio, with which Don Fernando
and his companions were so delighted that they wished the story had
been longer; so charmingly did Dorothea describe her misadventures.
When she had finished Don Fernando recounted what had befallen him
in the city after he had found in Luscinda's bosom the paper in
which she declared that she was Cardenio's wife, and never could be
his. He said he meant to kill her, and would have done so had he not
been prevented by her parents, and that he quitted the house full of
rage and shame, and resolved to avenge himself when a more
convenient opportunity should offer. The next day he learned that
Luscinda had disappeared from her father's house, and that no one
could tell whither she had gone. Finally, at the end of some months he
ascertained that she was in a convent and meant to remain there all
the rest of her life, if she were not to share it with Cardenio; and
as soon as he had learned this, taking these three gentlemen as his
companions, he arrived at the place where she was, but avoided
speaking to her, fearing that if it were known he was there stricter
precautions would be taken in the convent; and watching a time when
the porter's lodge was open he left two to guard the gate, and he
and the other entered the convent in quest of Luscinda, whom they
found in the cloisters in conversation with one of the nuns, and
carrying her off without giving her time to resist, they reached a
place with her where they provided themselves with what they
required for taking her away; all which they were able to do in
complete safety, as the convent was in the country at a considerable
distance from the city. He added that when Luscinda found herself in
his power she lost all consciousness, and after returning to herself
did nothing but weep and sigh without speaking a word; and thus in
silence and tears they reached that inn, which for him was reaching
heaven where all the mischances of earth are over and at an end.




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