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CHAPTER XLIII

WHEREIN IS RELATED THE PLEASANT STORY OF THE MULETEER, TOGETHER WITH
OTHER STRANGE THINGS THAT CAME TO PASS IN THE INN

Ah me, Love's mariner am I
On Love's deep ocean sailing;
I know not where the haven lies,
I dare not hope to gain it.

One solitary distant star
Is all I have to guide me,
A brighter orb than those of old
That Palinurus lighted.

And vaguely drifting am I borne,
I know not where it leads me;
I fix my gaze on it alone,
Of all beside it heedless.

But over-cautious prudery,
And coyness cold and cruel,
When most I need it, these, like clouds,
Its longed-for light refuse me.

Bright star, goal of my yearning eyes
As thou above me beamest,
When thou shalt hide thee from my sight
I'll know that death is near me.


The singer had got so far when it struck Dorothea that it was not
fair to let Clara miss hearing such a sweet voice, so, shaking her
from side to side, she woke her, saying:

"Forgive me, child, for waking thee, but I do so that thou mayest
have the pleasure of hearing the best voice thou hast ever heard,
perhaps, in all thy life."

Clara awoke quite drowsy, and not understanding at the moment what
Dorothea said, asked her what it was; she repeated what she had
said, and Clara became attentive at once; but she had hardly heard two
lines, as the singer continued, when a strange trembling seized her,
as if she were suffering from a severe attack of quartan ague, and
throwing her arms round Dorothea she said:

"Ah, dear lady of my soul and life! why did you wake me? The
greatest kindness fortune could do me now would be to close my eyes
and ears so as neither to see or hear that unhappy musician."

"What art thou talking about, child?" said Dorothea. "Why, they
say this singer is a muleteer!"

"Nay, he is the lord of many places," replied Clara, "and that one
in my heart which he holds so firmly shall never be taken from him,
unless he be willing to surrender it."

Dorothea was amazed at the ardent language of the girl, for it
seemed to be far beyond such experience of life as her tender years
gave any promise of, so she said to her:

"You speak in such a way that I cannot understand you, Senora Clara;
explain yourself more clearly, and tell me what is this you are saying
about hearts and places and this musician whose voice has so moved
you? But do not tell me anything now; I do not want to lose the
pleasure I get from listening to the singer by giving my attention
to your transports, for I perceive he is beginning to sing a new
strain and a new air."

"Let him, in Heaven's name," returned Clara; and not to hear him she
stopped both ears with her hands, at which Dorothea was again
surprised; but turning her attention to the song she found that it ran
in this fashion:

Sweet Hope, my stay,
That onward to the goal of thy intent
Dost make thy way,
Heedless of hindrance or impediment,
Have thou no fear
If at each step thou findest death is near.

No victory,
No joy of triumph doth the faint heart know;
Unblest is he
That a bold front to Fortune dares not show,
But soul and sense
In bondage yieldeth up to indolence.

If Love his wares
Do dearly sell, his right must be contest;
What gold compares
With that whereon his stamp he hath imprest?
And all men know
What costeth little that we rate but low.

Love resolute
Knows not the word "impossibility;"
And though my suit
Beset by endless obstacles I see,
Yet no despair
Shall hold me bound to earth while heaven is there.


Here the voice ceased and Clara's sobs began afresh, all which
excited Dorothea's curiosity to know what could be the cause of
singing so sweet and weeping so bitter, so she again asked her what it
was she was going to say before. On this Clara, afraid that Luscinda
might overhear her, winding her arms tightly round Dorothea put her
mouth so close to her ear that she could speak without fear of being
heard by anyone else, and said:

"This singer, dear senora, is the son of a gentleman of Aragon, lord
of two villages, who lives opposite my father's house at Madrid; and
though my father had curtains to the windows of his house in winter,
and lattice-work in summer, in some way- I know not how- this
gentleman, who was pursuing his studies, saw me, whether in church
or elsewhere, I cannot tell, and, in fact, fell in love with me, and
gave me to know it from the windows of his house, with so many signs
and tears that I was forced to believe him, and even to love him,
without knowing what it was he wanted of me. One of the signs he
used to make me was to link one hand in the other, to show me he
wished to marry me; and though I should have been glad if that could
be, being alone and motherless I knew not whom to open my mind to, and
so I left it as it was, showing him no favour, except when my
father, and his too, were from home, to raise the curtain or the
lattice a little and let him see me plainly, at which he would show
such delight that he seemed as if he were going mad. Meanwhile the
time for my father's departure arrived, which he became aware of,
but not from me, for I had never been able to tell him of it. He
fell sick, of grief I believe, and so the day we were going away I
could not see him to take farewell of him, were it only with the eyes.
But after we had been two days on the road, on entering the posada
of a village a day's journey from this, I saw him at the inn door in
the dress of a muleteer, and so well disguised, that if I did not
carry his image graven on my heart it would have been impossible for
me to recognise him. But I knew him, and I was surprised, and glad; he
watched me, unsuspected by my father, from whom he always hides
himself when he crosses my path on the road, or in the posadas where
we halt; and, as I know what he is, and reflect that for love of me he
makes this journey on foot in all this hardship, I am ready to die
of sorrow; and where he sets foot there I set my eyes. I know not with
what object he has come; or how he could have got away from his
father, who loves him beyond measure, having no other heir, and
because he deserves it, as you will perceive when you see him. And
moreover, I can tell you, all that he sings is out of his own head;
for I have heard them say he is a great scholar and poet; and what is
more, every time I see him or hear him sing I tremble all over, and am
terrified lest my father should recognise him and come to know of our
loves. I have never spoken a word to him in my life; and for all that
I love him so that I could not live without him. This, dear senora, is
all I have to tell you about the musician whose voice has delighted
you so much; and from it alone you might easily perceive he is no
muleteer, but a lord of hearts and towns, as I told you already."

"Say no more, Dona Clara," said Dorothea at this, at the same time
kissing her a thousand times over, "say no more, I tell you, but
wait till day comes; when I trust in God to arrange this affair of
yours so that it may have the happy ending such an innocent
beginning deserves."

"Ah, senora," said Dona Clara, "what end can be hoped for when his
father is of such lofty position, and so wealthy, that he would
think I was not fit to be even a servant to his son, much less wife?
And as to marrying without the knowledge of my father, I would not
do it for all the world. I would not ask anything more than that
this youth should go back and leave me; perhaps with not seeing him,
and the long distance we shall have to travel, the pain I suffer now
may become easier; though I daresay the remedy I propose will do me
very little good. I don't know how the devil this has come about, or
how this love I have for him got in; I such a young girl, and he
such a mere boy; for I verily believe we are both of an age, and I
am not sixteen yet; for I will be sixteen Michaelmas Day, next, my
father says."

Dorothea could not help laughing to hear how like a child Dona Clara
spoke. "Let us go to sleep now, senora," said she, "for the little
of the night that I fancy is left to us: God will soon send us
daylight, and we will set all to rights, or it will go hard with me."

With this they fell asleep, and deep silence reigned all through the
inn. The only persons not asleep were the landlady's daughter and
her servant Maritornes, who, knowing the weak point of Don Quixote's
humour, and that he was outside the inn mounting guard in armour and
on horseback, resolved, the pair of them, to play some trick upon him,
or at any rate to amuse themselves for a while by listening to his
nonsense. As it so happened there was not a window in the whole inn
that looked outwards except a hole in the wall of a straw-loft through
which they used to throw out the straw. At this hole the two
demi-damsels posted themselves, and observed Don Quixote on his horse,
leaning on his pike and from time to time sending forth such deep
and doleful sighs, that he seemed to pluck up his soul by the roots
with each of them; and they could hear him, too, saying in a soft,
tender, loving tone, "Oh my lady Dulcinea del Toboso, perfection of
all beauty, summit and crown of discretion, treasure house of grace,
depositary of virtue, and finally, ideal of all that is good,
honourable, and delectable in this world! What is thy grace doing now?
Art thou, perchance, mindful of thy enslaved knight who of his own
free will hath exposed himself to so great perils, and all to serve
thee? Give me tidings of her, oh luminary of the three faces!
Perhaps at this moment, envious of hers, thou art regarding her,
either as she paces to and fro some gallery of her sumptuous
palaces, or leans over some balcony, meditating how, whilst preserving
her purity and greatness, she may mitigate the tortures this
wretched heart of mine endures for her sake, what glory should
recompense my sufferings, what repose my toil, and lastly what death
my life, and what reward my services? And thou, oh sun, that art now
doubtless harnessing thy steeds in haste to rise betimes and come
forth to see my lady; when thou seest her I entreat of thee to
salute her on my behalf: but have a care, when thou shalt see her
and salute her, that thou kiss not her face; for I shall be more
jealous of thee than thou wert of that light-footed ingrate that
made thee sweat and run so on the plains of Thessaly, or on the
banks of the Peneus (for I do not exactly recollect where it was
thou didst run on that occasion) in thy jealousy and love."

Don Quixote had got so far in his pathetic speech when the
landlady's daughter began to signal to him, saying, "Senor, come
over here, please."

At these signals and voice Don Quixote turned his head and saw by
the light of the moon, which then was in its full splendour, that some
one was calling to him from the hole in the wall, which seemed to
him to be a window, and what is more, with a gilt grating, as rich
castles, such as he believed the inn to be, ought to have; and it
immediately suggested itself to his imagination that, as on the former
occasion, the fair damsel, the daughter of the lady of the castle,
overcome by love for him, was once more endeavouring to win his
affections; and with this idea, not to show himself discourteous, or
ungrateful, he turned Rocinante's head and approached the hole, and as
he perceived the two wenches he said:

"I pity you, beauteous lady, that you should have directed your
thoughts of love to a quarter from whence it is impossible that such a
return can be made to you as is due to your great merit and gentle
birth, for which you must not blame this unhappy knight-errant whom
love renders incapable of submission to any other than her whom, the
first moment his eyes beheld her, he made absolute mistress of his
soul. Forgive me, noble lady, and retire to your apartment, and do
not, by any further declaration of your passion, compel me to show
myself more ungrateful; and if, of the love you bear me, you should
find that there is anything else in my power wherein I can gratify
you, provided it be not love itself, demand it of me; for I swear to
you by that sweet absent enemy of mine to grant it this instant,
though it be that you require of me a lock of Medusa's hair, which was
all snakes, or even the very beams of the sun shut up in a vial."

"My mistress wants nothing of that sort, sir knight," said
Maritornes at this.

"What then, discreet dame, is it that your mistress wants?"
replied Don Quixote.

"Only one of your fair hands," said Maritornes, "to enable her to
vent over it the great passion passion which has brought her to this
loophole, so much to the risk of her honour; for if the lord her
father had heard her, the least slice he would cut off her would be
her ear."

"I should like to see that tried," said Don Quixote; "but he had
better beware of that, if he does not want to meet the most disastrous
end that ever father in the world met for having laid hands on the
tender limbs of a love-stricken daughter."

Maritornes felt sure that Don Quixote would present the hand she had
asked, and making up her mind what to do, she got down from the hole
and went into the stable, where she took the halter of Sancho
Panza's ass, and in all haste returned to the hole, just as Don
Quixote had planted himself standing on Rocinante's saddle in order to
reach the grated window where he supposed the lovelorn damsel to be;
and giving her his hand, he said, "Lady, take this hand, or rather
this scourge of the evil-doers of the earth; take, I say, this hand
which no other hand of woman has ever touched, not even hers who has
complete possession of my entire body. I present it to you, not that
you may kiss it, but that you may observe the contexture of the
sinews, the close network of the muscles, the breadth and capacity
of the veins, whence you may infer what must be the strength of the
arm that has such a hand."

"That we shall see presently," said Maritornes, and making a running
knot on the halter, she passed it over his wrist and coming down
from the hole tied the other end very firmly to the bolt of the door
of the straw-loft.

Don Quixote, feeling the roughness of the rope on his wrist,
exclaimed, "Your grace seems to be grating rather than caressing my
hand; treat it not so harshly, for it is not to blame for the
offence my resolution has given you, nor is it just to wreak all
your vengeance on so small a part; remember that one who loves so well
should not revenge herself so cruelly."

But there was nobody now to listen to these words of Don
Quixote's, for as soon as Maritornes had tied him she and the other
made off, ready to die with laughing, leaving him fastened in such a
way that it was impossible for him to release himself.

He was, as has been said, standing on Rocinante, with his arm passed
through the hole and his wrist tied to the bolt of the door, and in
mighty fear and dread of being left hanging by the arm if Rocinante
were to stir one side or the other; so he did not dare to make the
least movement, although from the patience and imperturbable
disposition of Rocinante, he had good reason to expect that he would
stand without budging for a whole century. Finding himself fast, then,
and that the ladies had retired, he began to fancy that all this was
done by enchantment, as on the former occasion when in that same
castle that enchanted Moor of a carrier had belaboured him; and he
cursed in his heart his own want of sense and judgment in venturing to
enter the castle again, after having come off so badly the first time;
it being a settled point with knights-errant that when they have tried
an adventure, and have not succeeded in it, it is a sign that it is
not reserved for them but for others, and that therefore they need not
try it again. Nevertheless he pulled his arm to see if he could
release himself, but it had been made so fast that all his efforts
were in vain. It is true he pulled it gently lest Rocinante should
move, but try as he might to seat himself in the saddle, he had
nothing for it but to stand upright or pull his hand off. Then it
was he wished for the sword of Amadis, against which no enchantment
whatever had any power; then he cursed his ill fortune; then he
magnified the loss the world would sustain by his absence while he
remained there enchanted, for that he believed he was beyond all
doubt; then he once more took to thinking of his beloved Dulcinea
del Toboso; then he called to his worthy squire Sancho Panza, who,
buried in sleep and stretched upon the pack-saddle of his ass, was
oblivious, at that moment, of the mother that bore him; then he called
upon the sages Lirgandeo and Alquife to come to his aid; then he
invoked his good friend Urganda to succour him; and then, at last,
morning found him in such a state of desperation and perplexity that
he was bellowing like a bull, for he had no hope that day would
bring any relief to his suffering, which he believed would last for
ever, inasmuch as he was enchanted; and of this he was convinced by
seeing that Rocinante never stirred, much or little, and he felt
persuaded that he and his horse were to remain in this state,
without eating or drinking or sleeping, until the malign influence
of the stars was overpast, or until some other more sage enchanter
should disenchant him.

But he was very much deceived in this conclusion, for daylight had
hardly begun to appear when there came up to the inn four men on
horseback, well equipped and accoutred, with firelocks across their
saddle-bows. They called out and knocked loudly at the gate of the
inn, which was still shut; on seeing which, Don Quixote, even there
where he was, did not forget to act as sentinel, and said in a loud
and imperious tone, "Knights, or squires, or whatever ye be, ye have
no right to knock at the gates of this castle; for it is plain
enough that they who are within are either asleep, or else are not
in the habit of throwing open the fortress until the sun's rays are
spread over the whole surface of the earth. Withdraw to a distance,
and wait till it is broad daylight, and then we shall see whether it
will be proper or not to open to you."

"What the devil fortress or castle is this," said one, "to make us
stand on such ceremony? If you are the innkeeper bid them open to
us; we are travellers who only want to feed our horses and go on,
for we are in haste."

"Do you think, gentlemen, that I look like an innkeeper?" said Don
Quixote.

"I don't know what you look like," replied the other; "but I know
that you are talking nonsense when you call this inn a castle."

"A castle it is," returned Don Quixote, "nay, more, one of the
best in this whole province, and it has within it people who have
had the sceptre in the hand and the crown on the head."

"It would be better if it were the other way," said the traveller,
"the sceptre on the head and the crown in the hand; but if so, may
be there is within some company of players, with whom it is a common
thing to have those crowns and sceptres you speak of; for in such a
small inn as this, and where such silence is kept, I do not believe
any people entitled to crowns and sceptres can have taken up their
quarters."

"You know but little of the world," returned Don Quixote, "since you
are ignorant of what commonly occurs in knight-errantry."

But the comrades of the spokesman, growing weary of the dialogue
with Don Quixote, renewed their knocks with great vehemence, so much
so that the host, and not only he but everybody in the inn, awoke, and
he got up to ask who knocked. It happened at this moment that one of
the horses of the four who were seeking admittance went to smell
Rocinante, who melancholy, dejected, and with drooping ears stood
motionless, supporting his sorely stretched master; and as he was,
after all, flesh, though he looked as if he were made of wood, he
could not help giving way and in return smelling the one who had come
to offer him attentions. But he had hardly moved at all when Don
Quixote lost his footing; and slipping off the saddle, he would have
come to the ground, but for being suspended by the arm, which caused
him such agony that he believed either his wrist would be cut through
or his arm torn off; and he hung so near the ground that he could just
touch it with his feet, which was all the worse for him; for, finding
how little was wanted to enable him to plant his feet firmly, he
struggled and stretched himself as much as he could to gain a footing;
just like those undergoing the torture of the strappado, when they are
fixed at "touch and no touch," who aggravate their own sufferings by
their violent efforts to stretch themselves, deceived by the hope
which makes them fancy that with a very little more they will reach
the ground.




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