Gavilan College celebrates 400 years of Don Quijote

The History of Don Quixote - The Second Part

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The History of the
Valorous & Witty Knight-Errant Don Quixote of the Mancha

By Miguel de Cervantes, Translated by Thomas Shelton

The Second Part

CHAPTER XXXVI: Of the Strange and Unimagined Adventure of the Afflicted Matron, alias the Countess Trifaldi, with a Letter that Sancho Panza wrote to his Wife Teresa Panza


THE duke had a steward of a very pleasant and conceited wit, who played Merlin’s part, and contrived the whole furniture for the past adventure; he it was that made the verses, and that a page should act Dulcinea. Finally, by his lord’s leave, he plotted another piece of work, the pleasantest and strangest that may be imagined.

The duchess asked Sancho the next day if he had yet begun his task of the penance, for the disenchanting of Dulcinea: he told her yes, and that as that night he had given himself five lashes. The duchess asked him, with what. He answered, with his hand. ‘Those,’ quoth the duchess, ‘are rather claps than lashes. I am of opinion that the sage Merlin will not accept of this softness; ‘twere fitter that Sancho took the discipline of rowels, or bullets with prickles, that may smart, for the business will be effected with blood; and the liberty of so great a lady will not be wrought so slightly, or with so small a price. And know, Sancho, that works of charity are not to be done so slow and lazily, for they will merit nothing.’

To which Sancho replied, ‘Give me, madam, a convenient lash of some bough, and I will lash myself, that it may not smart too much; for let me tell your worship this, that, though I am a clown, yet my flesh is rather cotton than mattress and there’s no reason I should kill myself for another’s good.’ ‘You say well,’ quoth the duchess; ‘to-morrow I’ll give you a whip that shall fit you, and agree with the tenderness of your flesh as if it were akin to them.’ To which quoth Sancho, ‘Lady of my soul, I beseech you know that I have written a letter to my wife Teresa Panza, letting her know all that hath happened to me since I parted from her; here I have it in my bosom, and it wants nothing but the superscription: I would your discretion would read it; for methinks it goes fit for a governor—I mean, in the style that governors should write.’ ‘And who penned it?’ said the duchess. ‘Who should,’ said he, ‘sinner that I am, but I myself?’ ‘And did you write it?’ quoth she. ‘Nothing less,’ said he; ‘for I can neither write nor read, though I can set to my firm.’ ‘Let’s see your letter,’ quoth the duchess; ‘for I warrant thou showest the ability and sufficiency of thy wit in it.’

Sancho drew the letter open out of his bosom; and the duchess, taking it of him, read the contents, as followeth:


‘If I were well lashed, I got well by it: if I got a government, it cost me many a good lash. This, my Teresa, at present thou understandest not, hereafter thou shalt know it. Know now, Teresa, that I am determined thou go in thy coach; for all other kind of going is to go upon all four. Thou art now a governor’s wife; let’s see if anybody will gnaw thy stumps. I have sent thee a green hunter’s suit, that my lady the duchess gave me; fit it so that it may serve our daughter for a coat and bodice. My master Don Quixote, as I have heard say in this country, is a mad wise-man, and a conceited coxcomb; and that I am ne’er a whit behind him. We have been in Montesinos’ Cave: and the sage Merlin hath laid hands on me for the disenchanting my Lady Dulcinea del Toboso, whom you there call Aldonsa Lorenzo. With three thousand and three hundred lashes lacking five, that I give myself, she shall be disenchanted as the mother that brought her forth: but let nobody know this; for put it thou to descant on, some will cry white, others black. Within this little while I will go to my government, whither I go with a great desire to make money; for I have been told that all your governors at the first go with the same desire. I will look into it, and send thee word whether it be fit for thee to come to me or no. Dapple is well, and commends him heartily to thee; and I will not leave him, although I were to go to be Great Turk. My lady the duchess kisses thy hands a thousand times. Return her two thousand; for there’s nothing costs less, nor is better cheap, as my master tells me, than compliment. God Almighty hath not yet been pleased to bless me with a cloak-bag, and another hundred pistolets, as those you wot of: but be not grieved, my Teresa; there’s no hurt done; all shall be recompensed when we lay the government a-bucking: only one thing troubles me; for they tell me that after my time is expired I may die for hunger; which if it should be true, I have paid dear for it, though your lame and maimed men get their living by begging and alms; so that, one way or other, thou shalt be rich and happy. God make thee so, and keep me to serve thee. From this castle, the twentieth of July, 1614.—The governor thy husband,


When the duchess had made an end of reading the letter, she said to Sancho, ‘In two things the good governor is out of the way: the one in saying, or publishing, that this government hath been given him for the lashes he must give himself, he knowing, for he cannot deny it, that when my lord the duke promised it him there was no dreaming in the world of lashes; the other is that he shows himself in it very coveteous, and I would not have it so prejudicial to him; for covetousness is the root of all evil, and the covetous governor does ungoverned justice.’ ‘I had no such meaning, madam,’ quoth Sancho; ‘and, if your worship think the letter be not written as it should be, let it be torn and we’ll have a new, and perhaps it may be worse, if it be left to my noddle.’ ‘No, no,’ quoth the duchess; ‘‘tis well enough, and I’ll have the duke see it.’

So they went to a garden where they were to dine that day. The duchess showed Sancho’s letter to the duke, which gave him great content. They dined, and when the cloth was taken away, and that they had entertained themselves a pretty while with Sancho’s savoury conversation, upon a sudden they heard a doleful sound of a flute, and of a hoarse and untuned drum. All of them were in some amazement at this confused, martial, and sad harmony, especially Don Quixote, who was so troubled he could not sit still in his seat; for Sancho, there is no more to be said but that fear carried him to his accustomed refuge, which was the duchess’s side or her lap; for, in good earnest, the sound they heard was most sad and melancholy. And, all of them being in this maze, they might see two men come in before them into the garden, clad in mourning weeds, so long that they dragged on the ground; these came beating of two drums, covered likewise with black; with them came the fife, black and besmeared as well as the rest. After these there followed a personage of a giantly body, bemantled, and not clad, in a coal-black cassock, whose skirt was extraordinary long; his cassock likewise was girt with a broad black belt, at which there hung an unmeasurable scimitar, with hilts and scabbard; upon his face he wore a transparent black veil, through which they might see a huge long beard as white as snow. His pace was very grave and staid, according to the sound of the drum and fife. To conclude, his hugeness, his motion, his blackness, and his consorts, might have held all that knew him not, and looked on him, in suspense.

Thus he came with the state and prosopopeia aforesaid, and kneeled before the duke, who, with the rest that stood up there, awaited his coming: but the duke would not by any means hear him speak till he rose, which the prodigious scarecrow did; and, standing up, he plucked his mask from off his face, and showed the most horrid, long, white, and thick beard that e’er till then human eyes beheld; and straight he let loose and roared out from his broad and spreading breast a majestical loud voice, and, casting his eyes toward the duke, thus said:

‘High and mighty sir, I am called Trifaldin with the White Beard, squire to the Countess Trifaldi, otherwise called the Afflicted Matron, from whom I bring an ambassage to your greatness, which is that your magnificence be pleased to give her leave and licence to enter and relate her griefs, which are the most strange and admirable that ever troubled thoughts in the world could think. But, first of all, she would know whether the valorous and invincible knight Don Quixote de la Mancha be in your castle, in whose search she comes afoot and hungry from the kingdom of Candaya, even to this your dukedom—a thing miraculous, or by way of enchantment: she is at your fortress gate, and only expects your permission to come in.

Thus he spoke, and forthwith coughed and wiped his beard from the top to the bottom with both his hands, and with a long pause attended the duke’s answer, which was: ‘Honest squire Trifaldin with the White Beard, long since the misfortune of the Countess Trifaldi hath come to our notice, whom enchanters have caused to be styled the Afflicted Matron. Tell her, stupendious squire, she may come in, and that here is the valiant knight Don Quixote de la Mancha, from whose generous condition she may safely promise herself all aid and assistance; and you may also tell her from me that, if she need my favour, she shall not want it, since I am obliged to it by being a knight, to whom the favouring of all sorts of her sex is pertained and annexed, especially matron-widows ruined and afflicted, as her ladyship is.’ Which when Trifaldin heard, he bent his knee to the ground, and making signs to the drum and fife, that they should play to the same pace and sound as when they entered, he returned back out of the garden, and left all in admiration of his presence and posture.

And the duke, turning to Don Quixote, said, ‘In fine, sir knight, neither the clouds of malice or ignorance can darken or obscure the light of valour and virtue. This I say because it is scarce six days since that your bounty1 hath been in this my castle, when the sad and afflicted come from remote parts on foot, and not in caroches and on dromedaries, to seek you, confident that in this most strenuous arm they shall find the remedy for their griefs and labours, thanks be to your brave exploits, that run over and compass the whole world.’

‘Now would I, my Lord,’ quoth Don Quixote, ‘that that same blessed clergyman were present who the other day at table seemed to be so distasted, and to bear such a grudge against knights-errant, that he might see with his eyes whether those knights are necessary to the world; he might feel too with his hands that your extraordinary afflicted and comfortless, and great affairs and enormous mishaps, go not to seek redress to book-men’s houses, or to some poor country sexton’s, nor to your gentleman that never stirred from home, nor to the lazy courtier that rather hearkens after news which he may report again, than procures to perform deeds and exploits that others may relate and write. The redress of griefs, the succouring of necessities, the protection of damsels, the comfort of widows is had from no sort of persons so well as from knights-errant; and that I am one I give Heaven infinite thanks, and I think my disgrace well earned that I may receive in this noble calling. Let this matron come and demand what she will; for I will give her redress with this my strong arm and undaunted resolution of my Courageous spirit.’

1 A forced word put in, in mockage purposely.

Gavilan College celebrates 400 years of Don Quijote

The History of Don Quixote - The Second Part

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