Gavilan College celebrates 400 years of Don Quijote

Don Quixote de la Mancha, translated by Charles Jarvis

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The Life and Exploits
of the Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote de la Mancha

By Miguel de Cervantes, Translated by Charles Jarvis, Esq.

The Second Part

CHAPTER XLVIII: Of what befell Don Quixote with Donna Rodriguez, the Duchess's Duenna, together with other Accidents worthy to be written, and had in eternal Remembrance.


Above measure discontented and melancholy was the sore-wounded Don Quixote, having his face bound up and marked, not by the hand of God but by the claws of a cat — misfortunes incident to knight-errantry. During six days he appeared not in public; on one night of which, lying awake and restless, meditating on his misfortunes, and the persecution he suffered from Altisidora, he perceived somebody was opening his chamber-door with a key, and presently imagined that the enamoured damsel was coming to assault his chastity, and expose him to the temptation of failing in the fidelity he owed to his Lady Dulcinea del Toboso. "No," said he, believing what he fancied, and so loud as to be overheard, "not the greatest beauty upon earth shall prevail with me to cease adoring her who is engraven and printed in the bottom of my heart, and in the inmost recesses of my entrails; whether, my dearest lady, you be now transformed into a garlic-eating country wench, or into a nymph of the golden Tagus, weaving tissue webs with gold and silken twist; or whether you are in the power of Merlin, or Montesinos; wherever you are, mine you are, and wherever I am, yours I have been, and yours I will remain." The conclusion of these words, and the opening the door, were at the same instant. Up he stood upon the bed, wrapped from top to toe in a quilt of yellow satin, a woollen cap on his head, and his face and mustachios bound up; his face, because of its scratches, and his mustachios, to keep them from flagging and falling down. In which guise he appeared the most extra-ordinary phantasm imaginable. He nailed his eyes to the door, and when he expected to see the poor captivated and sorrowful Altisidora enter, he perceived approaching a most reverend duenna, in a long white veil, that covered her from head to foot. She carried between the fingers of her left hand half a lighted candle, and held her right hand over it, to shade her face, and keep the glare from her eyes, which were hidden behind a huge pair of spectacles. She advanced very slowly, and trod very softly. Don Quixote observed her from his watch-tower, and, perceiving her figure, and noting her silence, he fancied some witch, or sorceress, was come in that disguise to do him some shrewd turn, and began to cross himself apace. The apparition kept moving forward, and when it came to the middle of the room, it lifted up its eyes, and saw in what a hurry Don Quixote was crossing himself; and, if he was afraid at seeing such a figure, she was no less dismayed at sight of his; and, seeing him so lank and yellow, with the quilt, and the bandages, which disfigured him, she cried out, saying. "Jesus! what do I see?" With the fright, the candle fell out of her hand. and, finding herself in the dark, she turned about to begone, and, with the fear, treading on her skirts, she tumbled, and fell down. Don Quixote, trembling with affright, began to say, "I conjure thee, phantom, or whatever thou art, tell me who thou art, and what thou wouldest have with me: if thou art a soul in torment, tell me, and I will do all I can for thee; for I am a Catholic Christian, and love to do good to all the world: for that purpose I took upon me the profession of knight-errantry, an employment which extends to the doing good even to souls in purgatory." The bruised -[497]- duenna, hearing herself thus exorcised, guessed at Don Quixote's fear by her own, and, in a low and doleful voice, answered, "Signor Don Quixote (if peradventure your worship be Don Quixote), I am no phantom, nor apparition, nor soul in purgatory, as your worship seems to think, but Donna Rodriguez, duenna of honour to my lady duchess; and am come to your worship with one of those cases of necessity your worship is wont to remedy." — "Tell me then, Signora Donna Rodriguez," said Don Quixote, "does your ladyship, peradventure, come in quality of procuress? If you do, I give you to understand I am fit for nobody's turn, thanks to the peerless beauty of my mistress Dulcinea del Toboso. In short, Signora Donna Rodriguez, on condition you wave all amorous messages, you may go and light your candle, and return hither, and we will discourse of whatever you please to command, with exception, as I told you, to all kind of amorous excitements." — "I bring messages, good Sir!" answered the duenna: "your worship mistakes me very much; I am not yet so advanced in years to be forced to betake myself to so low an employment, for, God be praised, my soul is still in my body, and all my teeth in my head, excepting a few usurped from me by catarrhs, so common in this country of Arragon. But stay a little, Sir, till I go and light my candle, and I will return instantly, to relate my griefs to your worship, as to the redresser of all the grievances in the world." And, without staying for an answer, she went out of the room, leaving Don Quixote in expectation of her return.

Straight a thousand thoughts crowded into his mind touching this new adventure, and he was of opinion he had done ill, and judged worse, to expose himself to the hazard of breaking his plighted troth to his lady; and he said to himself, "Who knows but the devil, who is subtle and designing, means to deceive me now with a duenna, though he has not been able to effect it with empresses, queens, duchesses, marchionesses, or countesses? For I have often heard ingenious people say, the devil, if he can, will sooner tempt a man with a flat-nosed than a hawk-nosed woman; and who can tell but this solitude, this opportunity, and this silence may awake my desires, which are now asleep, and, in my declining years, make me fall where I never yet stumbled? In such cases it is better to fly than stand the battle. But sure I am not in my right senses to talk so idly; for it is impossible that a white-veiled, lank, and bespectacled duenna should move or excite a wanton thought in the lewdest breast in the world. Is there a duenna upon earth that has tolerable flesh and blood? Is there a duenna upon the globe that is not impertinent, wrinkled, and squeamish? Avaunt then, ye rabble of duennas! useless to any human pleasure! O how rightly did that lady act, of whom it is said that she had, at the foot of her state sofa, a couple of statues of duennas, with their spectacles and bobbin- cushions, as if they were at work; which statues served every whit as well for the dignity of her state-room as real duennas." And so saying, he jumped off the bed, designing to lock his door, and not let Signora Rodriguez enter. But, before he could shut it, Signora Rodriguez was just returned with a lighted taper of white wax; and, seeing Don Quixote so much nearer, wrapped up in his quilt, with his bandages and nightcap, she was again frightened, and retreating two or three steps, she said, "Sir Knight, am I safe? for I take it to be no very good sign of modesty that your worship is got out of bed." — "I should rather ask you that question, Madam," answered Don Quixote; "and therefore I do ask if I am safe -[498]- from being assaulted and ravished?" — "By whom, and from whom, Sir Knight, do you expect this security?" answered the duenna. "By you and from you," replied Don Quixote; "for I am not made of marble, nor you, I suppose, of brass; nor is it ten o'clock in the morning, but midnight, and somewhat more, as I imagine; and we are in a room closer and more secret than the cave in which the bold and traitorous Ζneas enjoyed the beautiful and tender-hearted Dido. But, Madam, give me your hand; for I desire no greater security than my own continence and reserve, besides what that most venerable veil inspires." And so saying, he kissed his right hand, and with it took hold of hers, which she gave him with the same ceremony.

Here Cid Hamete makes a parenthesis, and swears by Mahomet he would have given the better of his two vests to have seen these two walking from the door to the bedside, handing and handed, so ceremoniously.

 In short, Don Quixote got into bed, and Donna Rodriguez sat down in a chair at some little distance from it, without taking off her spectacles, or setting down her candle. Don Quixote covered himself up close, all but his face; and they both having paused a while, the first who broke silence was Don Quixote, saying, "Now, Signora Donna Rodriguez, you may unrip and unbosom all that is in your careful heart and piteous bowels; for you shall be heard by me with chaste ears, and assisted by compassionate deeds." — "I believe it," answered the duenna;" for none but so Christian an answer could be expected from your worship's gentle and pleasing presence.

"The business then is this, Signor Don Quixote, that, though your worship sees me sitting on this chair, and in the midst of the kingdom of Arragon, and in the garb of a poor persecuted duenna, I was born in the Asturias of Oviedo, and of a family allied to some of the best of that province. But my hard fortune and the negligence of my parents, which reduced them, I know not which way, to untimely poverty, carried me to the court of Madrid, where, for peace' sake, and to prevent greater inconveniences, my parents placed me in the service of a great lady; and I would have your worship know, that in making needle-cases and plain work I was never outdone by anybody in all my life. My parents left me in service, and returned to their own country; and in a few years after, I believe they went to Heaven; for they were very good and Catholic Christians. I remained an orphan, and stinted to the miserable wages and short commons usually given in great houses to such kind of servants. About that time, without my giving any encouragement for it, a gentleman-usher of the family fell in love with me; a man in years, with a fine beard, and of a comely person, and, above all, as good a gentleman as the king himself; for he was a highlander. We did not carry on our amour so secretly but it came to the notice of my lady, who, without more ado, had us married in peace, and in the face of our Holy Mother the Catholic Roman Church; from which marriage sprang a daughter to finish my good fortune, if I had any; not that I died in child-bed (for I went my full time, and was safely delivered), but because my husband died soon after of a certain fright he took; and had I but time to tell the manner how, you worship, I am sure, would wonder."

Here she began to weep most tenderly, and said: "Pardon me, good Signor Don Quixote, for I cannot command myself; but as often as I call to my mind my unhappy spouse, my eyes are brimful. God be my aid! -[499]- with what stateliness did he use to carry my lady behind him on a puissant mule, black as the very jet! for in those times coaches and side-saddles were not in fashion, as it is said they are now, and the ladies rode behind their squires. Nevertheless I cannot help telling you the following story, that you may see how well bred and how punctilious my good husband was. At the entrance into Saint James's Street in Madrid, which is very narrow, a judge of one of the courts happened to be coming out with two of his officers before him, and, as soon as my good squire saw him, he turned his mule about, as if he designed to wait upon him. My lady, who was behind him, said to him in a low voice, 'What are you doing, blockhead? am not I here?' The judge civilly stopped his horse, and said: 'Keep on your way, Sir; for it is my business rather to wait upon my lady Donna Casilda;' that was my mistress's name. My husband persisted, cap in hand, in his intention to wait upon the judge. Which my lady perceiving, full of choler and indignation, she pulled out a great pin, or rather, I believe, a bodkin, and stuck it into his back; whereupon my husband bawled out, and, writhing his body, down he came with his lady to the ground. Two of her footmen ran to help her up, as did the judge and his officers. The gate of Guadalajara, I mean the idle people that stood there, were all in an uproar. My mistress was forced to walk home on foot, and my husband went to a barber-surgeon's, telling him he was quite run through and through the bowels. The courteousness and breeding of my spouse was rumoured abroad, insomuch that the boys got it, and teased him with it in the streets; and, upon this account, and because he was a little short-sighted, my lady turned him away; the grief whereof, I verily believe, was the death of him. I was left a widow, and helpless, with a daughter upon my hands, who went on increasing in beauty like the foam of the sea. Finally, as I had the reputation of a good work-women at my needle, my lady duchess, who was then newly married to my lord duke, would needs have me with her to this kingdom of Arragon, together with my daughter; where in process of time, she grew up, and with her all the accomplishments in the world. She sings like any lark, dances quick as thought, capers as if she would break her neck, reads and writes like a schoolmaster, and casts accounts like any usurer. I say nothing of her cleanliness, for the running brook is not cleaner; and she is now, if I remember right, sixteen years of age, five months, and three days, one more or less. In a word, the son of a very rich farmer, who lives not far off in a village of my lord duke's, grew enamoured of this girl of mine; and to be short, I know not how it came about, but they got together, and, under promise of being her husband, he has fooled my daughter, and now refuses to perform it. And, though my lord duke knows the affair, and I have complained again and again to him, and begged him to command this young farmer to marry my daughter, yet he turns the deaf ear, and will hardly vouchsafe to hear me; and the reason is, because the cozening knave's father is rich, and lends him money, and is bound for him on all occasions; therefore he will not disoblige nor offend him in any wise. Now, good Sir, my desire is, that your worship take upon you the redressing this wrong, either by entreaty, or by force of arms; since all the world says your worship was born in it to redress grievances, to right the injured, and succour the miserable. And be pleased, Sir, to consider my daughter's fatherless condition, her genteelness, her youth, and all the good qualities I have already mentioned; for, on my soul and conscience, of all the -[500]- damsels my lady has, there is not one that comes up to the sole of her shoe; and one of them, called Altisidora, who is reckoned to be the liveliest and gracefullest of them all, falls above two leagues short, in comparison with my daughter: for, you must know, dear Sir, that all is not gold that glitters, and this same little Altisidora has more self-conceit than beauty, and more assurance than modesty; besides, she is none of the soundest; for her breath is so strong, there is no enduring to be a moment near her. Nay, even my lady duchess herself — but mum for that; for they say, walls have ears."

"What of my lady duchess?" said Don Quixote. "Tell me, Madam Rodriguez, by my life." — "Thus conjured," replied the duenna, "I cannot but answer to whatever is asked me, with all truth. Your worship, Signor Don Quixote, must have observed the beauty of my lady duchess; that complexion like any bright and polished sword; those cheeks of milk and crimson, with the sun in the one, and the moon in the other; and that stateliness with which she treads, or rather disdains, the very ground she walks on, that one would think she went dispensing health wherever she passes. Let me tell you, Sir, she may thank God for it in the first place, and next two issues she has, one in each leg, which discharge all the bad humours, of which the physicians say she is full." — "Holy Mary!" said Don Quixote, "is it possible my lady duchess has such drains? I should never have believed it, had the bare-footed friars themselves told it me; but, since Madam Donna Rodriguez says it, it must needs be so. But such issues, and in such places, must distill nothing but liquid amber: verily I am now convinced that this making of issues is a matter of great consequence in respect to health."

Scarcely had Don Quixote said this, when with a great bounce the chamber-door flew open; which so much surprised Donna Rodriguez, that she let fall the candle out of her hand, and the room remained as dark as a wolfs mouth, as the saying is; and presently the poor duenna found herself gripped so fast by the throat with two hands, that she could not squall, and another person, very nimbly, without speaking a word, whipped up her petticoats, and with a slipper, as it seemed, gave her so many slaps, that it would have moved one's pity; and though it did that of Don Quixote, he stirred not from the bed; and not knowing the meaning of all this, he lay still and silent, fearing lest that round and sound flogging should come next to his turn; and his fear proved not in vain; for the silent executioners, leaving the duenna, who durst not cry out, well curried, came to Don Quixote; and, turning down the bed-clothes, they pinched him so often and so hard, that he could not forbear going to fisticuffs in his own defence, and all this in marvellous silence. The battle lasted some half an hour; the phantoms went off; Donna Rodriguez adjusted her petticoats, and, bewailing her misfortune, marched out at the door without saying a word to Don Quixote, who, sad and sorely bepinched, confused and pensive, remained alone; where we will leave him, impatient to learn who that perverse enchanter was that had handled him so roughly. But that shall be told in its proper place; for Sancho Panza calls upon us, and the method of the history requires it.


Gavilan College celebrates 400 years of Don Quijote

Don Quixote de la Mancha, translated by Charles Jarvis

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