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CHAPTER XXIII

OF THE WONDERFUL THINGS THE INCOMPARABLE DON QUIXOTE SAID HE SAW
IN THE PROFOUND CAVE OF MONTESINOS, THE IMPOSSIBILITY AND MAGNITUDE OF
WHICH CAUSE THIS ADVENTURE TO BE DEEMED APOCRYPHAL

It was about four in the afternoon when the sun, veiled in clouds,
with subdued light and tempered beams, enabled Don Quixote to
relate, without heat or inconvenience, what he had seen in the cave of
Montesinos to his two illustrious hearers, and he began as follows:

"A matter of some twelve or fourteen times a man's height down in
this pit, on the right-hand side, there is a recess or space, roomy
enough to contain a large cart with its mules. A little light
reaches it through some chinks or crevices, communicating with it
and open to the surface of the earth. This recess or space I perceived
when I was already growing weary and disgusted at finding myself
hanging suspended by the rope, travelling downwards into that dark
region without any certainty or knowledge of where I was going, so I
resolved to enter it and rest myself for a while. I called out,
telling you not to let out more rope until I bade you, but you
cannot have heard me. I then gathered in the rope you were sending me,
and making a coil or pile of it I seated myself upon it, ruminating
and considering what I was to do to lower myself to the bottom, having
no one to hold me up; and as I was thus deep in thought and
perplexity, suddenly and without provocation a profound sleep fell
upon me, and when I least expected it, I know not how, I awoke and
found myself in the midst of the most beautiful, delightful meadow
that nature could produce or the most lively human imagination
conceive. I opened my eyes, I rubbed them, and found I was not
asleep but thoroughly awake. Nevertheless, I felt my head and breast
to satisfy myself whether it was I myself who was there or some
empty delusive phantom; but touch, feeling, the collected thoughts
that passed through my mind, all convinced me that I was the same then
and there that I am this moment. Next there presented itself to my
sight a stately royal palace or castle, with walls that seemed built
of clear transparent crystal; and through two great doors that
opened wide therein, I saw coming forth and advancing towards me a
venerable old man, clad in a long gown of mulberry-coloured serge that
trailed upon the ground. On his shoulders and breast he had a green
satin collegiate hood, and covering his head a black Milanese
bonnet, and his snow-white beard fell below his girdle. He carried
no arms whatever, nothing but a rosary of beads bigger than fair-sized
filberts, each tenth bead being like a moderate ostrich egg; his
bearing, his gait, his dignity and imposing presence held me
spellbound and wondering. He approached me, and the first thing he did
was to embrace me closely, and then he said to me, 'For a long time
now, O valiant knight Don Quixote of La Mancha, we who are here
enchanted in these solitudes have been hoping to see thee, that thou
mayest make known to the world what is shut up and concealed in this
deep cave, called the cave of Montesinos, which thou hast entered,
an achievement reserved for thy invincible heart and stupendous
courage alone to attempt. Come with me, illustrious sir, and I will
show thee the marvels hidden within this transparent castle, whereof I
am the alcaide and perpetual warden; for I am Montesinos himself, from
whom the cave takes its name.'

"The instant he told me he was Montesinos, I asked him if the
story they told in the world above here was true, that he had taken
out the heart of his great friend Durandarte from his breast with a
little dagger, and carried it to the lady Belerma, as his friend
when at the point of death had commanded him. He said in reply that
they spoke the truth in every respect except as to the dagger, for
it was not a dagger, nor little, but a burnished poniard sharper
than an awl."

"That poniard must have been made by Ramon de Hoces the
Sevillian," said Sancho.

"I do not know," said Don Quixote; "it could not have been by that
poniard maker, however, because Ramon de Hoces was a man of yesterday,
and the affair of Roncesvalles, where this mishap occurred, was long
ago; but the question is of no great importance, nor does it affect or
make any alteration in the truth or substance of the story."

"That is true," said the cousin; "continue, Senor Don Quixote, for I
am listening to you with the greatest pleasure in the world."

"And with no less do I tell the tale," said Don Quixote; "and so, to
proceed- the venerable Montesinos led me into the palace of crystal,
where, in a lower chamber, strangely cool and entirely of alabaster,
was an elaborately wrought marble tomb, upon which I beheld, stretched
at full length, a knight, not of bronze, or marble, or jasper, as
are seen on other tombs, but of actual flesh and bone. His right
hand (which seemed to me somewhat hairy and sinewy, a sign of great
strength in its owner) lay on the side of his heart; but before I
could put any question to Montesinos, he, seeing me gazing at the tomb
in amazement, said to me, 'This is my friend Durandarte, flower and
mirror of the true lovers and valiant knights of his time. He is
held enchanted here, as I myself and many others are, by that French
enchanter Merlin, who, they say, was the devil's son; but my belief
is, not that he was the devil's son, but that he knew, as the saying
is, a point more than the devil. How or why he enchanted us, no one
knows, but time will tell, and I suspect that time is not far off.
What I marvel at is, that I know it to be as sure as that it is now
day, that Durandarte ended his life in my arms, and that, after his
death, I took out his heart with my own hands; and indeed it must have
weighed more than two pounds, for, according to naturalists, he who
has a large heart is more largely endowed with valour than he who
has a small one. Then, as this is the case, and as the knight did
really die, how comes it that he now moans and sighs from time to
time, as if he were still alive?'

"As he said this, the wretched Durandarte cried out in a loud voice:

O cousin Montesinos!
'T was my last request of thee,
When my soul hath left the body,
And that lying dead I be,
With thy poniard or thy dagger
Cut the heart from out my breast,
And bear it to Belerma.
This was my last request.

On hearing which, the venerable Montesinos fell on his knees before
the unhappy knight, and with tearful eyes exclaimed, 'Long since,
Senor Durandarte, my beloved cousin, long since have I done what you
bade me on that sad day when I lost you; I took out your heart as well
as I could, not leaving an atom of it in your breast, I wiped it
with a lace handkerchief, and I took the road to France with it,
having first laid you in the bosom of the earth with tears enough to
wash and cleanse my hands of the blood that covered them after
wandering among your bowels; and more by token, O cousin of my soul,
at the first village I came to after leaving Roncesvalles, I sprinkled
a little salt upon your heart to keep it sweet, and bring it, if not
fresh, at least pickled, into the presence of the lady Belerma,
whom, together with you, myself, Guadiana your squire, the duenna
Ruidera and her seven daughters and two nieces, and many more of
your friends and acquaintances, the sage Merlin has been keeping
enchanted here these many years; and although more than five hundred
have gone by, not one of us has died; Ruidera and her daughters and
nieces alone are missing, and these, because of the tears they shed,
Merlin, out of the compassion he seems to have felt for them,
changed into so many lakes, which to this day in the world of the
living, and in the province of La Mancha, are called the Lakes of
Ruidera. The seven daughters belong to the kings of Spain and the
two nieces to the knights of a very holy order called the Order of St.
John. Guadiana your squire, likewise bewailing your fate, was
changed into a river of his own name, but when he came to the
surface and beheld the sun of another heaven, so great was his grief
at finding he was leaving you, that he plunged into the bowels of
the earth; however, as he cannot help following his natural course, he
from time to time comes forth and shows himself to the sun and the
world. The lakes aforesaid send him their waters, and with these,
and others that come to him, he makes a grand and imposing entrance
into Portugal; but for all that, go where he may, he shows his
melancholy and sadness, and takes no pride in breeding dainty choice
fish, only coarse and tasteless sorts, very different from those of
the golden Tagus. All this that I tell you now, O cousin mine, I
have told you many times before, and as you make no answer, I fear
that either you believe me not, or do not hear me, whereat I feel
God knows what grief. I have now news to give you, which, if it serves
not to alleviate your sufferings, will not in any wise increase
them. Know that you have here before you (open your eyes and you
will see) that great knight of whom the sage Merlin has prophesied
such great things; that Don Quixote of La Mancha I mean, who has
again, and to better purpose than in past times, revived in these days
knight-errantry, long since forgotten, and by whose intervention and
aid it may be we shall be disenchanted; for great deeds are reserved
for great men.'

"'And if that may not be,' said the wretched Durandarte in a low and
feeble voice, 'if that may not be, then, my cousin, I say "patience
and shuffle;"' and turning over on his side, he relapsed into his
former silence without uttering another word.

"And now there was heard a great outcry and lamentation, accompanied
by deep sighs and bitter sobs. I looked round, and through the crystal
wall I saw passing through another chamber a procession of two lines
of fair damsels all clad in mourning, and with white turbans of
Turkish fashion on their heads. Behind, in the rear of these, there
came a lady, for so from her dignity she seemed to be, also clad in
black, with a white veil so long and ample that it swept the ground.
Her turban was twice as large as the largest of any of the others; her
eyebrows met, her nose was rather flat, her mouth was large but with
ruddy lips, and her teeth, of which at times she allowed a glimpse,
were seen to be sparse and ill-set, though as white as peeled almonds.
She carried in her hands a fine cloth, and in it, as well as I could
make out, a heart that had been mummied, so parched and dried was
it. Montesinos told me that all those forming the procession were
the attendants of Durandarte and Belerma, who were enchanted there
with their master and mistress, and that the last, she who carried the
heart in the cloth, was the lady Belerma, who, with her damsels,
four days in the week went in procession singing, or rather weeping,
dirges over the body and miserable heart of his cousin; and that if
she appeared to me somewhat ill-favoured or not so beautiful as fame
reported her, it was because of the bad nights and worse days that she
passed in that enchantment, as I could see by the great dark circles
round her eyes, and her sickly complexion; 'her sallowness, and the
rings round her eyes,' said he, 'are not caused by the periodical
ailment usual with women, for it is many months and even years since
she has had any, but by the grief her own heart suffers because of
that which she holds in her hand perpetually, and which recalls and
brings back to her memory the sad fate of her lost lover; were it
not for this, hardly would the great Dulcinea del Toboso, so
celebrated in all these parts, and even in the world, come up to her
for beauty, grace, and gaiety.'

"'Hold hard!' said I at this, 'tell your story as you ought, Senor
Don Montesinos, for you know very well that all comparisons are
odious, and there is no occasion to compare one person with another;
the peerless Dulcinea del Toboso is what she is, and the lady Dona
Belerma is what she is and has been, and that's enough.' To which he
made answer, 'Forgive me, Senor Don Quixote; I own I was wrong and
spoke unadvisedly in saying that the lady Dulcinea could scarcely come
up to the lady Belerma; for it were enough for me to have learned,
by what means I know not, that youare her knight, to make me bite my
tongue out before I compared her to anything save heaven itself.'
After this apology which the great Montesinos made me, my heart
recovered itself from the shock I had received in hearing my lady
compared with Belerma."

"Still I wonder," said Sancho, "that your worship did not get upon
the old fellow and bruise every bone of him with kicks, and pluck
his beard until you didn't leave a hair in it."

"Nay, Sancho, my friend," said Don Quixote, "it would not have
been right in me to do that, for we are all bound to pay respect to
the aged, even though they be not knights, but especially to those who
are, and who are enchanted; I only know I gave him as good as he
brought in the many other questions and answers we exchanged."

"I cannot understand, Senor Don Quixote," remarked the cousin
here, "how it is that your worship, in such a short space of time as
you have been below there, could have seen so many things, and said
and answered so much."

"How long is it since I went down?" asked Don Quixote.

"Little better than an hour," replied Sancho.

"That cannot be," returned Don Quixote, "because night overtook me
while I was there, and day came, and it was night again and day
again three times; so that, by my reckoning, I have been three days in
those remote regions beyond our ken."

"My master must be right," replied Sancho; "for as everything that
has happened to him is by enchantment, maybe what seems to us an
hour would seem three days and nights there."

"That's it," said Don Quixote.

"And did your worship eat anything all that time, senor?" asked
the cousin.

"I never touched a morsel," answered Don Quixote, "nor did I feel
hunger, or think of it."

"And do the enchanted eat?" said the cousin.

"They neither eat," said Don Quixote; "nor are they subject to the
greater excrements, though it is thought that their nails, beards, and
hair grow."

"And do the enchanted sleep, now, senor?" asked Sancho.

"Certainly not," replied Don Quixote; "at least, during those
three days I was with them not one of them closed an eye, nor did I
either."

"The proverb, 'Tell me what company thou keepest and I'll tell
thee what thou art,' is to the point here," said Sancho; "your worship
keeps company with enchanted people that are always fasting and
watching; what wonder is it, then, that you neither eat nor sleep
while you are with them? But forgive me, senor, if I say that of all
this you have told us now, may God take me- I was just going to say
the devil- if I believe a single particle."

"What!" said the cousin, "has Senor Don Quixote, then, been lying?
Why, even if he wished it he has not had time to imagine and put
together such a host of lies."

"I don't believe my master lies," said Sancho.

"If not, what dost thou believe?" asked Don Quixote.

"I believe," replied Sancho, "that this Merlin, or those
enchanters who enchanted the whole crew your worship says you saw
and discoursed with down there, stuffed your imagination or your
mind with all this rigmarole you have been treating us to, and all
that is still to come."

"All that might be, Sancho," replied Don Quixote; "but it is not so,
for everything that I have told you I saw with my own eyes, and
touched with my own hands. But what will you say when I tell you now
how, among the countless other marvellous things Montesinos showed
me (of which at leisure and at the proper time I will give thee an
account in the course of our journey, for they would not be all in
place here), he showed me three country girls who went skipping and
capering like goats over the pleasant fields there, and the instant
I beheld them I knew one to be the peerless Dulcinea del Toboso, and
the other two those same country girls that were with her and that
we spoke to on the road from El Toboso! I asked Montesinos if he
knew them, and he told me he did not, but he thought they must be some
enchanted ladies of distinction, for it was only a few days before
that they had made their appearance in those meadows; but I was not to
be surprised at that, because there were a great many other ladies
there of times past and present, enchanted in various strange
shapes, and among them he had recognised Queen Guinevere and her
dame Quintanona, she who poured out the wine for Lancelot when he came
from Britain."

When Sancho Panza heard his master say this he was ready to take
leave of his senses, or die with laughter; for, as he knew the real
truth about the pretended enchantment of Dulcinea, in which he himself
had been the enchanter and concocter of all the evidence, he made up
his mind at last that, beyond all doubt, his master was out of his
wits and stark mad, so he said to him, "It was an evil hour, a worse
season, and a sorrowful day, when your worship, dear master mine, went
down to the other world, and an unlucky moment when you met with Senor
Montesinos, who has sent you back to us like this. You were well
enough here above in your full senses, such as God had given you,
delivering maxims and giving advice at every turn, and not as you
are now, talking the greatest nonsense that can be imagined."

"As I know thee, Sancho," said Don Quixote, "I heed not thy words."

"Nor I your worship's," said Sancho, "whether you beat me or kill me
for those I have spoken, and will speak if you don't correct and
mend your own. But tell me, while we are still at peace, how or by
what did you recognise the lady our mistress; and if you spoke to her,
what did you say, and what did she answer?"

"I recognised her," said Don Quixote, "by her wearing the same
garments she wore when thou didst point her out to me. I spoke to her,
but she did not utter a word in reply; on the contrary, she turned her
back on me and took to flight, at such a pace that crossbow bolt could
not have overtaken her. I wished to follow her, and would have done so
had not Montesinos recommended me not to take the trouble as it
would be useless, particularly as the time was drawing near when it
would be necessary for me to quit the cavern. He told me, moreover,
that in course of time he would let me know how he and Belerma, and
Durandarte, and all who were there, were to be disenchanted. But of
all I saw and observed down there, what gave me most pain was, that
while Montesinos was speaking to me, one of the two companions of
the hapless Dulcinea approached me on one without my having seen her
coming, and with tears in her eyes said to me, in a low, agitated
voice, 'My lady Dulcinea del Toboso kisses your worship's hands, and
entreats you to do her the favour of letting her know how you are;
and, being in great need, she also entreats your worship as
earnestly as she can to be so good as to lend her half a dozen
reals, or as much as you may have about you, on this new dimity
petticoat that I have here; and she promises to repay them very
speedily.' I was amazed and taken aback by such a message, and turning
to Senor Montesinos I asked him, 'Is it possible, Senor Montesinos,
that persons of distinction under enchantment can be in need?' To
which he replied, 'Believe me, Senor Don Quixote, that which is called
need is to be met with everywhere, and penetrates all quarters and
reaches everyone, and does not spare even the enchanted; and as the
lady Dulcinea del Toboso sends to beg those six reals, and the
pledge is to all appearance a good one, there is nothing for it but to
give them to her, for no doubt she must be in some great strait.' 'I
will take no pledge of her,' I replied, 'nor yet can I give her what
she asks, for all I have is four reals; which I gave (they were
those which thou, Sancho, gavest me the other day to bestow in alms
upon the poor I met along the road), and I said, 'Tell your
mistress, my dear, that I am grieved to the heart because of her
distresses, and wish I was a Fucar to remedy them, and that I would
have her know that I cannot be, and ought not be, in health while
deprived of the happiness of seeing her and enjoying her discreet
conversation, and that I implore her as earnestly as I can, to allow
herself to be seen and addressed by this her captive servant and
forlorn knight. Tell her, too, that when she least expects it she will
hear it announced that I have made an oath and vow after the fashion
of that which the Marquis of Mantua made to avenge his nephew Baldwin,
when he found him at the point of death in the heart of the mountains,
which was, not to eat bread off a tablecloth, and other trifling
matters which he added, until he had avenged him; and I will make
the same to take no rest, and to roam the seven regions of the earth
more thoroughly than the Infante Don Pedro of Portugal ever roamed
them, until I have disenchanted her.' 'All that and more, you owe my
lady,' the damsel's answer to me, and taking the four reals, instead
of making me a curtsey she cut a caper, springing two full yards
into the air."

"O blessed God!" exclaimed Sancho aloud at this, "is it possible
that such things can be in the world, and that enchanters and
enchantments can have such power in it as to have changed my
master's right senses into a craze so full of absurdity! O senor,
senor, for God's sake, consider yourself, have a care for your honour,
and give no credit to this silly stuff that has left you scant and
short of wits."

"Thou talkest in this way because thou lovest me, Sancho," said
Don Quixote; "and not being experienced in the things of the world,
everything that has some difficulty about it seems to thee impossible;
but time will pass, as I said before, and I will tell thee some of the
things I saw down there which will make thee believe what I have
related now, the truth of which admits of neither reply nor question."




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