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CHAPTER XXI

IN WHICH CAMACHO'S WEDDING IS CONTINUED, WITH OTHER DELIGHTFUL INCIDENTS

While Don Quixote and Sancho were engaged in the discussion set
forth the last chapter, they heard loud shouts and a great noise,
which were uttered and made by the men on the mares as they went at
full gallop, shouting, to receive the bride and bridegroom, who were
approaching with musical instruments and pageantry of all sorts around
them, and accompanied by the priest and the relatives of both, and all
the most distinguished people of the surrounding villages. When Sancho
saw the bride, he exclaimed, "By my faith, she is not dressed like a
country girl, but like some fine court lady; egad, as well as I can
make out, the patena she wears rich coral, and her green Cuenca
stuff is thirty-pile velvet; and then the white linen trimming- by
my oath, but it's satin! Look at her hands- jet rings on them! May I
never have luck if they're not gold rings, and real gold, and set with
pearls as white as a curdled milk, and every one of them worth an
eye of one's head! Whoreson baggage, what hair she has! if it's not
a wig, I never saw longer or fairer all the days of my life. See how
bravely she bears herself- and her shape! Wouldn't you say she was
like a walking palm tree loaded with clusters of dates? for the
trinkets she has hanging from her hair and neck look just like them. I
swear in my heart she is a brave lass, and fit 'to pass over the banks
of Flanders.'"

Don Quixote laughed at Sancho's boorish eulogies and thought that,
saving his lady Dulcinea del Toboso, he had never seen a more
beautiful woman. The fair Quiteria appeared somewhat pale, which
was, no doubt, because of the bad night brides always pass dressing
themselves out for their wedding on the morrow. They advanced
towards a theatre that stood on one side of the meadow decked with
carpets and boughs, where they were to plight their troth, and from
which they were to behold the dances and plays; but at the moment of
their arrival at the spot they heard a loud outcry behind them, and
a voice exclaiming, "Wait a little, ye, as inconsiderate as ye are
hasty!" At these words all turned round, and perceived that the
speaker was a man clad in what seemed to be a loose black coat
garnished with crimson patches like flames. He was crowned (as was
presently seen) with a crown of gloomy cypress, and in his hand he
held a long staff. As he approached he was recognised by everyone as
the gay Basilio, and all waited anxiously to see what would come of
his words, in dread of some catastrophe in consequence of his
appearance at such a moment. He came up at last weary and
breathless, and planting himself in front of the bridal pair, drove
his staff, which had a steel spike at the end, into the ground, and,
with a pale face and eyes fixed on Quiteria, he thus addressed her
in a hoarse, trembling voice:

"Well dost thou know, ungrateful Quiteria, that according to the
holy law we acknowledge, so long as live thou canst take no husband;
nor art thou ignorant either that, in my hopes that time and my own
exertions would improve my fortunes, I have never failed to observe
the respect due to thy honour; but thou, casting behind thee all
thou owest to my true love, wouldst surrender what is mine to
another whose wealth serves to bring him not only good fortune but
supreme happiness; and now to complete it (not that I think he
deserves it, but inasmuch as heaven is pleased to bestow it upon him),
I will, with my own hands, do away with the obstacle that may
interfere with it, and remove myself from between you. Long live the
rich Camacho! many a happy year may he live with the ungrateful
Quiteria! and let the poor Basilio die, Basilio whose poverty
clipped the wings of his happiness, and brought him to the grave!"

And so saying, he seized the staff he had driven into the ground,
and leaving one half of it fixed there, showed it to be a sheath
that concealed a tolerably long rapier; and, what may he called its
hilt being planted in the ground, he swiftly, coolly, and deliberately
threw himself upon it, and in an instant the bloody point and half the
steel blade appeared at his back, the unhappy man falling to the earth
bathed in his blood, and transfixed by his own weapon.

His friends at once ran to his aid, filled with grief at his
misery and sad fate, and Don Quixote, dismounting from Rocinante,
hastened to support him, and took him in his arms, and found he had
not yet ceased to breathe. They were about to draw out the rapier, but
the priest who was standing by objected to its being withdrawn
before he had confessed him, as the instant of its withdrawal would be
that of this death. Basilio, however, reviving slightly, said in a
weak voice, as though in pain, "If thou wouldst consent, cruel
Quiteria, to give me thy hand as my bride in this last fatal moment, I
might still hope that my rashness would find pardon, as by its means I
attained the bliss of being thine."

Hearing this the priest bade him think of the welfare of his soul
rather than of the cravings of the body, and in all earnestness
implore God's pardon for his sins and for his rash resolve; to which
Basilio replied that he was determined not to confess unless
Quiteria first gave him her hand in marriage, for that happiness would
compose his mind and give him courage to make his confession.

Don Quixote hearing the wounded man's entreaty, exclaimed aloud that
what Basilio asked was just and reasonable, and moreover a request
that might be easily complied with; and that it would be as much to
Senor Camacho's honour to receive the lady Quiteria as the widow of
the brave Basilio as if he received her direct from her father.

"In this case," said he, "it will be only to say 'yes,' and no
consequences can follow the utterance of the word, for the nuptial
couch of this marriage must be the grave."

Camacho was listening to all this, perplexed and bewildered and
not knowing what to say or do; but so urgent were the entreaties of
Basilio's friends, imploring him to allow Quiteria to give him her
hand, so that his soul, quitting this life in despair, should not be
lost, that they moved, nay, forced him, to say that if Quiteria were
willing to give it he was satisfied, as it was only putting off the
fulfillment of his wishes for a moment. At once all assailed
Quiteria and pressed her, some with prayers, and others with tears,
and others with persuasive arguments, to give her hand to poor
Basilio; but she, harder than marble and more unmoved than any statue,
seemed unable or unwilling to utter a word, nor would she have given
any reply had not the priest bade her decide quickly what she meant to
do, as Basilio now had his soul at his teeth, and there was no time
for hesitation.

On this the fair Quiteria, to all appearance distressed, grieved,
and repentant, advanced without a word to where Basilio lay, his
eyes already turned in his head, his breathing short and painful,
murmuring the name of Quiteria between his teeth, and apparently about
to die like a heathen and not like a Christian. Quiteria approached
him, and kneeling, demanded his hand by signs without speaking.
Basilio opened his eyes and gazing fixedly at her, said, "O
Quiteria, why hast thou turned compassionate at a moment when thy
compassion will serve as a dagger to rob me of life, for I have not
now the strength left either to bear the happiness thou givest me in
accepting me as thine, or to suppress the pain that is rapidly drawing
the dread shadow of death over my eyes? What I entreat of thee, O thou
fatal star to me, is that the hand thou demandest of me and wouldst
give me, be not given out of complaisance or to deceive me afresh, but
that thou confess and declare that without any constraint upon thy
will thou givest it to me as to thy lawful husband; for it is not meet
that thou shouldst trifle with me at such a moment as this, or have
recourse to falsehoods with one who has dealt so truly by thee."

While uttering these words he showed such weakness that the
bystanders expected each return of faintness would take his life
with it. Then Quiteria, overcome with modesty and shame, holding in
her right hand the hand of Basilio, said, "No force would bend my
will; as freely, therefore, as it is possible for me to do so, I
give thee the hand of a lawful wife, and take thine if thou givest
it to me of thine own free will, untroubled and unaffected by the
calamity thy hasty act has brought upon thee."

"Yes, I give it," said Basilio, "not agitated or distracted, but
with unclouded reason that heaven is pleased to grant me, thus do I
give myself to be thy husband."

"And I give myself to be thy wife," said Quiteria, "whether thou
livest many years, or they carry thee from my arms to the grave."

"For one so badly wounded," observed Sancho at this point, "this
young man has a great deal to say; they should make him leave off
billing and cooing, and attend to his soul; for to my thinking he
has it more on his tongue than at his teeth."

Basilio and Quiteria having thus joined hands, the priest, deeply
moved and with tears in his eyes, pronounced the blessing upon them,
and implored heaven to grant an easy passage to the soul of the
newly wedded man, who, the instant he received the blessing, started
nimbly to his feet and with unparalleled effrontery pulled out the
rapier that had been sheathed in his body. All the bystanders were
astounded, and some, more simple than inquiring, began shouting, "A
miracle, a miracle!" But Basilio replied, "No miracle, no miracle;
only a trick, a trick!" The priest, perplexed and amazed, made haste
to examine the wound with both hands, and found that the blade had
passed, not through Basilio's flesh and ribs, but through a hollow
iron tube full of blood, which he had adroitly fixed at the place, the
blood, as was afterwards ascertained, having been so prepared as not
to congeal. In short, the priest and Camacho and most of those present
saw they were tricked and made fools of. The bride showed no signs
of displeasure at the deception; on the contrary, hearing them say
that the marriage, being fraudulent, would not be valid, she said that
she confirmed it afresh, whence they all concluded that the affair had
been planned by agreement and understanding between the pair,
whereat Camacho and his supporters were so mortified that they
proceeded to revenge themselves by violence, and a great number of
them drawing their swords attacked Basilio, in whose protection as
many more swords were in an instant unsheathed, while Don Quixote
taking the lead on horseback, with his lance over his arm and well
covered with his shield, made all give way before him. Sancho, who
never found any pleasure or enjoyment in such doings, retreated to the
wine-jars from which he had taken his delectable skimmings,
considering that, as a holy place, that spot would be respected.

"Hold, sirs, hold!" cried Don Quixote in a loud voice; "we have no
right to take vengeance for wrongs that love may do to us: remember
love and war are the same thing, and as in war it is allowable and
common to make use of wiles and stratagems to overcome the enemy, so
in the contests and rivalries of love the tricks and devices
employed to attain the desired end are justifiable, provided they be
not to the discredit or dishonour of the loved object. Quiteria
belonged to Basilio and Basilio to Quiteria by the just and beneficent
disposal of heaven. Camacho is rich, and can purchase his pleasure
when, where, and as it pleases him. Basilio has but this ewe-lamb, and
no one, however powerful he may be, shall take her from him; these two
whom God hath joined man cannot separate; and he who attempts it
must first pass the point of this lance;" and so saying he
brandished it so stoutly and dexterously that he overawed all who
did not know him.

But so deep an impression had the rejection of Quiteria made on
Camacho's mind that it banished her at once from his thoughts; and
so the counsels of the priest, who was a wise and kindly disposed man,
prevailed with him, and by their means he and his partisans were
pacified and tranquillised, and to prove it put up their swords again,
inveighing against the pliancy of Quiteria rather than the
craftiness of Basilio; Camacho maintaining that, if Quiteria as a
maiden had such a love for Basilio, she would have loved him too as
a married woman, and that he ought to thank heaven more for having
taken her than for having given her.

Camacho and those of his following, therefore, being consoled and
pacified, those on Basilio's side were appeased; and the rich Camacho,
to show that he felt no resentment for the trick, and did not care
about it, desired the festival to go on just as if he were married
in reality. Neither Basilio, however, nor his bride, nor their
followers would take any part in it, and they withdrew to Basilio's
village; for the poor, if they are persons of virtue and good sense,
have those who follow, honour, and uphold them, just as the rich
have those who flatter and dance attendance on them. With them they
carried Don Quixote, regarding him as a man of worth and a stout
one. Sancho alone had a cloud on his soul, for he found himself
debarred from waiting for Camacho's splendid feast and festival, which
lasted until night; and thus dragged away, he moodily followed his
master, who accompanied Basilio's party, and left behind him the
flesh-pots of Egypt; though in his heart he took them with him, and
their now nearly finished skimmings that he carried in the bucket
conjured up visions before his eyes of the glory and abundance of
the good cheer he was losing. And so, vexed and dejected though not
hungry, without dismounting from Dapple he followed in the footsteps
of Rocinante.




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