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 XXXVII: Of the Prosecution of the Famous Adventure of the Afflicted Matron


THE duke and duchess were extremely glad to see how well Don Quixote satisfied their intentions; and then Sancho said, ‘I should be loth this mistress matron should lay any stumbling-block in the promise of my government; for I have heard a Toledo apothecary say (and he spoke like a bullfinch) that where these kind of women were intermeddling there could no good follow.1 Lord! what an enemy that apothecary was to them! for since all your matrons, of what condition or quality soever they be, are irksome and foolish, what kind of ones shall your Afflicted be? as this Countess Three Skirts, or Three Tails; for tails and skirts, all is one.’2

‘Peace, friend Sancho,’ quoth Don Quixote; ‘for, since this matron-lady comes from so remote parts to seek me, she is none of those that the apothecary hath in his beadroll. Besides, this is a countess; and, when your countesses are waiting-women, ‘tis either to queens or empresses, who in their houses are most absolute, and are served by other waiting-women.’ To this quoth Donna Rodriguez, that was present, ‘My lady the duchess hath women in her service that might have been countesses, if fortune had been pleased: but the weakest go to the walls, and let no man speak ill of waiting-women, and especially of ancient maids; for, although I am none, yet I well and clearly perceive the advantage that your maiden waiting-women have over widow-women, and one pair of shears went between us both.’

‘For all that,’ quoth Sancho, ‘there is so much to be sheared in your waiting-women, according to mine apothecary, that “the more you stir this business the more it will stink.”’ ‘Always these squires,’ quoth Donna Rodriguez, ‘are malicious against us; for, as they are fairies that haunt the out-rooms, and every foot spy us, the times that they are not at their devotions (which are many) they spend in backbiting us, undigging our bones, and burying our reputation. Well, let me tell these moving blocks that, in spite of them, we will live in the world and in houses of good fashion, though we starve for it, or cover our delicate or not delicate flesh with a black monk’s weed, as if we were old walls covered with tapestry, at the passing of a procession. I’ faith, if I had time and leisure enough, I would make all that are present know that there is no virtue but is contained in a waiting-woman.’ ‘I believe,’ said the duchess, ‘my honest Donna Rodriguez is in the right; but she must stay for a fit time to answer for herself and the rest of waiting-women, to confound the apothecary’s ill opinion, and to root it out altogether from Sancho’s breast.’ To which quoth Sancho, ‘Since the governorship smokes in my head, all squirely fumes are gone out, and I care not a wild fig for all your waiting-women.’

Forward they had gone with this waiting-woman discourse, had they not heard the drum and fife play, whereby they knew that the Afflicted Matron was entering. The duchess asked the duke if they should meet her, since she was a countess and noble personage. ‘For her countship,’ quoth Sancho, before the duke could answer, ‘I like it that your greatness meet her; but, for her matronship, that ye stir not a foot.’ ‘Who bids thee meddle with that, Sancho?’ quoth Don Quixote. ‘Who, sir?’ said he: ‘I myself, that may meddle, that, as a squire, have learned the terms of courtesy in your worship’s school, that is the most courteous and best-bred knight in all courtship; and, as I have heard you say in these things, “Better play a card too much than too little,” and “Good wits will soon meet.”’ ‘‘Tis true as Sancho says,’ quoth the duke; ‘we will see what kind of countess she is, and by that guess what courtesy is due to her.’

By this the drum and fife came in, as formerly; and here the author ended this brief chapter, beginning another, which continues the same adventure, one of the notablest of all the history.

1 Duennas: here Sancho takes duenna in the former sense for an old waiting-woman.
2 Alluding to the name
‘Trifaldi,’ as if she had been called ‘tres faldes,’ which signifies three skirts; and this was his mistake.

Gavilan College celebrates 400 years of Don Quijote

The History of Don Quixote - The Second Part

Gavilan Spanish Questions or comments Bibliographic Record Index page Previous page Top Next page