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CHAPTER XXXVI

WHEREIN IS RELATED THE STRANGE AND UNDREAMT-OF ADVENTURE OF THE
DISTRESSED DUENNA, ALIAS THE COUNTESS TRIFALDI, TOGETHER WITH A LETTER
WHICH SANCHO PANZA WROTE TO HIS WIFE, TERESA PANZA

The duke had a majordomo of a very facetious and sportive turn,
and he it was that played the part of Merlin, made all the
arrangements for the late adventure, composed the verses, and got a
page to represent Dulcinea; and now, with the assistance of his master
and mistress, he got up another of the drollest and strangest
contrivances that can be imagined.

The duchess asked Sancho the next day if he had made a beginning
with his penance task which he had to perform for the disenchantment
of Dulcinea. He said he had, and had given himself five lashes
overnight.

The duchess asked him what he had given them with.

He said with his hand.

"That," said the duchess, "is more like giving oneself slaps than
lashes; I am sure the sage Merlin will not be satisfied with such
tenderness; worthy Sancho must make a scourge with claws, or a
cat-o'-nine tails, that will make itself felt; for it's with blood
that letters enter, and the release of so great a lady as Dulcinea
will not be granted so cheaply, or at such a paltry price; and
remember, Sancho, that works of charity done in a lukewarm and
half-hearted way are without merit and of no avail."

To which Sancho replied, "If your ladyship will give me a proper
scourge or cord, I'll lay on with it, provided it does not hurt too
much; for you must know, boor as I am, my flesh is more cotton than
hemp, and it won't do for me to destroy myself for the good of anybody
else."

"So be it by all means," said the duchess; "tomorrow I'll give you a
scourge that will be just the thing for you, and will accommodate
itself to the tenderness of your flesh, as if it was its own sister."

Then said Sancho, "Your highness must know, dear lady of my soul,
that I have a letter written to my wife, Teresa Panza, giving her an
account of all that has happened me since I left her; I have it here
in my bosom, and there's nothing wanting but to put the address to it;
I'd be glad if your discretion would read it, for I think it runs in
the governor style; I mean the way governors ought to write."

"And who dictated it?" asked the duchess.

"Who should have dictated but myself, sinner as I am?" said Sancho.

"And did you write it yourself?" said the duchess.

"That I didn't," said Sancho; "for I can neither read nor write,
though I can sign my name."

"Let us see it," said the duchess, "for never fear but you display
in it the quality and quantity of your wit."

Sancho drew out an open letter from his bosom, and the duchess,
taking it, found it ran in this fashion:


SANCHO PANZA'S LETTER TO HIS WIFE, TERESA PANZA


If I was well whipped I went mounted like a gentleman; if I have got
a good government it is at the cost of a good whipping. Thou wilt
not understand this just now, my Teresa; by-and-by thou wilt know what
it means. I may tell thee, Teresa, I mean thee to go in a coach, for
that is a matter of importance, because every other way of going is
going on all-fours. Thou art a governor's wife; take care that
nobody speaks evil of thee behind thy back. I send thee here a green
hunting suit that my lady the duchess gave me; alter it so as to
make a petticoat and bodice for our daughter. Don Quixote, my
master, if I am to believe what I hear in these parts, is a madman
of some sense, and a droll blockhead, and I am no way behind him. We
have been in the cave of Montesinos, and the sage Merlin has laid hold
of me for the disenchantment of Dulcinea del Toboso, her that is
called Aldonza Lorenzo over there. With three thousand three hundred
lashes, less five, that I'm to give myself, she will be left as
entirely disenchanted as the mother that bore her. Say nothing of this
to anyone; for, make thy affairs public, and some will say they are
white and others will say they are black. I shall leave this in a
few days for my government, to which I am going with a mighty great
desire to make money, for they tell me all new governors set out
with the same desire; I will feel the pulse of it and will let thee
know if thou art to come and live with me or not. Dapple is well and
sends many remembrances to thee; I am not going to leave him behind
though they took me away to be Grand Turk. My lady the duchess
kisses thy hands a thousand times; do thou make a return with two
thousand, for as my master says, nothing costs less or is cheaper than
civility. God has not been pleased to provide another valise for me
with another hundred crowns, like the one the other day; but never
mind, my Teresa, the bell-ringer is in safe quarters, and all will
come out in the scouring of the government; only it troubles me
greatly what they tell me- that once I have tasted it I will eat my
hands off after it; and if that is so it will not come very cheap to
me; though to be sure the maimed have a benefice of their own in the
alms they beg for; so that one way or another thou wilt be rich and in
luck. God give it to thee as he can, and keep me to serve thee. From
this castle, the 20th of July, 1614.

Thy husband, the governor.

SANCHO PANZA



When she had done reading the letter the duchess said to Sancho, "On
two points the worthy governor goes rather astray; one is in saying or
hinting that this government has been bestowed upon him for the lashes
that he is to give himself, when he knows (and he cannot deny it) that
when my lord the duke promised it to him nobody ever dreamt of such
a thing as lashes; the other is that he shows himself here to he
very covetous; and I would not have him a money-seeker, for
'covetousness bursts the bag,' and the covetous governor does
ungoverned justice."

"I don't mean it that way, senora," said Sancho; "and if you think
the letter doesn't run as it ought to do, it's only to tear it up
and make another; and maybe it will be a worse one if it is left to my
gumption."

"No, no," said the duchess, "this one will do, and I wish the duke
to see it."

With this they betook themselves to a garden where they were to
dine, and the duchess showed Sancho's letter to the duke, who was
highly delighted with it. They dined, and after the cloth had been
removed and they had amused themselves for a while with Sancho's
rich conversation, the melancholy sound of a fife and harsh discordant
drum made itself heard. All seemed somewhat put out by this dull,
confused, martial harmony, especially Don Quixote, who could not
keep his seat from pure disquietude; as to Sancho, it is needless to
say that fear drove him to his usual refuge, the side or the skirts of
the duchess; and indeed and in truth the sound they heard was a most
doleful and melancholy one. While they were still in uncertainty
they saw advancing towards them through the garden two men clad in
mourning robes so long and flowing that they trailed upon the
ground. As they marched they beat two great drums which were
likewise draped in black, and beside them came the fife player,
black and sombre like the others. Following these came a personage
of gigantic stature enveloped rather than clad in a gown of the
deepest black, the skirt of which was of prodigious dimensions. Over
the gown, girdling or crossing his figure, he had a broad baldric
which was also black, and from which hung a huge scimitar with a black
scabbard and furniture. He had his face covered with a transparent
black veil, through which might be descried a very long beard as white
as snow. He came on keeping step to the sound of the drums with
great gravity and dignity; and, in short, his stature, his gait, the
sombreness of his appearance and his following might well have
struck with astonishment, as they did, all who beheld him without
knowing who he was. With this measured pace and in this guise he
advanced to kneel before the duke, who, with the others, awaited him
standing. The duke, however, would not on any account allow him to
speak until he had risen. The prodigious scarecrow obeyed, and
standing up, removed the veil from his face and disclosed the most
enormous, the longest, the whitest and the thickest beard that human
eyes had ever beheld until that moment, and then fetching up a
grave, sonorous voice from the depths of his broad, capacious chest,
and fixing his eyes on the duke, he said:

"Most high and mighty senor, my name is Trifaldin of the White
Beard; I am squire to the Countess Trifaldi, otherwise called the
Distressed Duenna, on whose behalf I bear a message to your
highness, which is that your magnificence will be pleased to grant her
leave and permission to come and tell you her trouble, which is one of
the strangest and most wonderful that the mind most familiar with
trouble in the world could have imagined; but first she desires to
know if the valiant and never vanquished knight, Don Quixote of La
Mancha, is in this your castle, for she has come in quest of him on
foot and without breaking her fast from the kingdom of Kandy to your
realms here; a thing which may and ought to be regarded as a miracle
or set down to enchantment; she is even now at the gate of this
fortress or plaisance, and only waits for your permission to enter.
I have spoken." And with that he coughed, and stroked down his beard
with both his hands, and stood very tranquilly waiting for the
response of the duke, which was to this effect: "Many days ago, worthy
squire Trifaldin of the White Beard, we heard of the misfortune of
my lady the Countess Trifaldi, whom the enchanters have caused to be
called the Distressed Duenna. Bid her enter, O stupendous squire,
and tell her that the valiant knight Don Quixote of La Mancha is here,
and from his generous disposition she may safely promise herself every
protection and assistance; and you may tell her, too, that if my aid
be necessary it will not be withheld, for I am bound to give it to her
by my quality of knight, which involves the protection of women of all
sorts, especially widowed, wronged, and distressed dames, such as
her ladyship seems to be."

On hearing this Trifaldin bent the knee to the ground, and making
a sign to the fifer and drummers to strike up, he turned and marched
out of the garden to the same notes and at the same pace as when he
entered, leaving them all amazed at his bearing and solemnity. Turning
to Don Quixote, the duke said, "After all, renowned knight, the
mists of malice and ignorance are unable to hide or obscure the
light of valour and virtue. I say so, because your excellence has been
barely six days in this castle, and already the unhappy and the
afflicted come in quest of you from lands far distant and remote,
and not in coaches or on dromedaries, but on foot and fasting,
confident that in that mighty arm they will find a cure for their
sorrows and troubles; thanks to your great achievements, which are
circulated all over the known earth."

"I wish, senor duke," replied Don Quixote, "that blessed
ecclesiastic, who at table the other day showed such ill-will and
bitter spite against knights-errant, were here now to see with his own
eyes whether knights of the sort are needed in the world; he would
at any rate learn by experience that those suffering any extraordinary
affliction or sorrow, in extreme cases and unusual misfortunes do
not go to look for a remedy to the houses of jurists or village
sacristans, or to the knight who has never attempted to pass the
bounds of his own town, or to the indolent courtier who only seeks for
news to repeat and talk of, instead of striving to do deeds and
exploits for others to relate and record. Relief in distress, help
in need, protection for damsels, consolation for widows, are to be
found in no sort of persons better than in knights-errant; and I
give unceasing thanks to heaven that I am one, and regard any
misfortune or suffering that may befall me in the pursuit of so
honourable a calling as endured to good purpose. Let this duenna
come and ask what she will, for I will effect her relief by the
might of my arm and the dauntless resolution of my bold heart."




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