**Wherein is told the distressed duenna's tale of her misfortunes**
Following the melancholy musicians there filed into the garden as many a_welve duennas, in two lines, all dressed in ample mourning robes apparentl_f milled serge, with hoods of fine white gauze so long that they allowed onl_he border of the robe to be seen. Behind them came the Countess Trifaldi, th_quire Trifaldin of the White Beard leading her by the hand, clad in th_inest unnapped black baize, such that, had it a nap, every tuft would hav_hown as big as a Martos chickpea; the tail, or skirt, or whatever it might b_alled, ended in three points which were borne up by the hands of three pages,
likewise dressed in mourning, forming an elegant geometrical figure with th_hree acute angles made by the three points, from which all who saw the peake_kirt concluded that it must be because of it the countess was calle_rifaldi, as though it were Countess of the Three Skirts; and Benengeli say_t was so, and that by her right name she was called the Countess Lobuna,
because wolves bred in great numbers in her country; and if, instead o_olves, they had been foxes, she would have been called the Countess Zorruna,
as it was the custom in those parts for lords to take distinctive titles fro_he thing or things most abundant in their dominions; this countess, however,
in honour of the new fashion of her skirt, dropped Lobuna and took u_rifaldi.
The twelve duennas and the lady came on at procession pace, their faces bein_overed with black veils, not transparent ones like Trifaldin's, but so clos_hat they allowed nothing to be seen through them. As soon as the band o_uennas was fully in sight, the duke, the duchess, and Don Quixote stood up,
as well as all who were watching the slow-moving procession. The twelv_uennas halted and formed a lane, along which the Distressed One advanced,
Trifaldin still holding her hand. On seeing this the duke, the duchess, an_on Quixote went some twelve paces forward to meet her. She then, kneeling o_he ground, said in a voice hoarse and rough, rather than fine and delicate,
"May it please your highnesses not to offer such courtesies to this you_ervant, I should say to this your handmaid, for I am in such distress that _hall never be able to make a proper return, because my strange an_nparalleled misfortune has carried off my wits, and I know not whither; bu_t must be a long way off, for the more I look for them the less I find them."
"He would be wanting in wits, senora countess," said the duke, "who did no_erceive your worth by your person, for at a glance it may be seen it deserve_ll the cream of courtesy and flower of polite usage;" and raising her up b_he hand he led her to a seat beside the duchess, who likewise received he_ith great urbanity. Don Quixote remained silent, while Sancho was dying t_ee the features of Trifaldi and one or two of her many duennas; but there wa_o possibility of it until they themselves displayed them of their own accor_nd free will.
All kept still, waiting to see who would break silence, which the Distresse_uenna did in these words: "I am confident, most mighty lord, most fair lady,
and most discreet company, that my most miserable misery will be accorded _eception no less dispassionate than generous and condolent in your mos_aliant bosoms, for it is one that is enough to melt marble, soften diamonds,
and mollify the steel of the most hardened hearts in the world; but ere it i_roclaimed to your hearing, not to say your ears, I would fain be enlightene_hether there be present in this society, circle, or company, that knigh_mmaculatissimus, Don Quixote de la Manchissima, and his squirissimus Panza."
"The Panza is here," said Sancho, before anyone could reply, "and Do_uixotissimus too; and so, most distressedest Duenissima, you may say what yo_illissimus, for we are all readissimus to do you any servissimus."
On this Don Quixote rose, and addressing the Distressed Duenna, said, "If you_orrows, afflicted lady, can indulge in any hope of relief from the valour o_ight of any knight-errant, here are mine, which, feeble and limited thoug_hey be, shall be entirely devoted to your service. I am Don Quixote of L_ancha, whose calling it is to give aid to the needy of all sorts; and tha_eing so, it is not necessary for you, senora, to make any appeal t_enevolence, or deal in preambles, only to tell your woes plainly an_traightforwardly: for you have hearers that will know how, if not to remed_hem, to sympathise with them."
On hearing this, the Distressed Duenna made as though she would throw hersel_t Don Quixote's feet, and actually did fall before them and said, as sh_trove to embrace them, "Before these feet and legs I cast myself, _nconquered knight, as before, what they are, the foundations and pillars o_night-errantry; these feet I desire to kiss, for upon their steps hangs an_epends the sole remedy for my misfortune, O valorous errant, whose veritabl_chievements leave behind and eclipse the fabulous ones of the Amadises,
Esplandians, and Belianises!" Then turning from Don Quixote to Sancho Panza,
and grasping his hands, she said, "O thou, most loyal squire that ever serve_night-errant in this present age or ages past, whose goodness is mor_xtensive than the beard of Trifaldin my companion here of present, wel_ayest thou boast thyself that, in serving the great Don Quixote, thou ar_erving, summed up in one, the whole host of knights that have ever borne arm_n the world. I conjure thee, by what thou owest to thy most loyal goodness,
that thou wilt become my kind intercessor with thy master, that he speedil_ive aid to this most humble and most unfortunate countess."
To this Sancho made answer, "As to my goodness, senora, being as long and a_reat as your squire's beard, it matters very little to me; may I have my sou_ell bearded and moustached when it comes to quit this life, that's the point;
about beards here below I care little or nothing; but without all thes_landishments and prayers, I will beg my master (for I know he loves me, and,
besides, he has need of me just now for a certain business) to help and ai_our worship as far as he can; unpack your woes and lay them before us, an_eave us to deal with them, for we'll be all of one mind."
The duke and duchess, as it was they who had made the experiment of thi_dventure, were ready to burst with laughter at all this, and betwee_hemselves they commended the clever acting of the Trifaldi, who, returning t_er seat, said, "Queen Dona Maguncia reigned over the famous kingdom of Kandy,
which lies between the great Trapobana and the Southern Sea, two league_eyond Cape Comorin. She was the widow of King Archipiela, her lord an_usband, and of their marriage they had issue the Princess Antonomasia,
heiress of the kingdom; which Princess Antonomasia was reared and brought u_nder my care and direction, I being the oldest and highest in rank of he_other's duennas. Time passed, and the young Antonomasia reached the age o_ourteen, and such a perfection of beauty, that nature could not raise i_igher. Then, it must not be supposed her intelligence was childish; she wa_s intelligent as she was fair, and she was fairer than all the world; and i_o still, unless the envious fates and hard-hearted sisters three have cut fo_er the thread of life. But that they have not, for Heaven will not suffer s_reat a wrong to Earth, as it would be to pluck unripe the grapes of th_airest vineyard on its surface. Of this beauty, to which my poor feebl_ongue has failed to do justice, countless princes, not only of that country,
but of others, were enamoured, and among them a private gentleman, who was a_he court, dared to raise his thoughts to the heaven of so great beauty,
trusting to his youth, his gallant bearing, his numerous accomplishments an_races, and his quickness and readiness of wit; for I may tell you_ighnesses, if I am not wearying you, that he played the guitar so as to mak_t speak, and he was, besides, a poet and a great dancer, and he could mak_irdcages so well, that by making them alone he might have gained _ivelihood, had he found himself reduced to utter poverty; and gifts an_races of this kind are enough to bring down a mountain, not to say a tende_oung girl. But all his gallantry, wit, and gaiety, all his graces an_ccomplishments, would have been of little or no avail towards gaining th_ortress of my pupil, had not the impudent thief taken the precaution o_aining me over first. First, the villain and heartless vagabond sought to wi_y good-will and purchase my compliance, so as to get me, like a treacherou_arder, to deliver up to him the keys of the fortress I had in charge. In _ord, he gained an influence over my mind, and overcame my resolutions with _now not what trinkets and jewels he gave me; but it was some verses I hear_im singing one night from a grating that opened on the street where he lived,
that, more than anything else, made me give way and led to my fall; and if _emember rightly they ran thus:
From that sweet enemy of mine
My bleeding heart hath had its wound;
And to increase the pain I'm bound
To suffer and to make no sign.
The lines seemed pearls to me and his voice sweet as syrup; and afterwards, _ay say ever since then, looking at the misfortune into which I have fallen, _ave thought that poets, as Plato advised, ought to be banished from all well-
ordered States; at least the amatory ones, for they write verses, not lik_hose of 'The Marquis of Mantua,' that delight and draw tears from the wome_nd children, but sharp-pointed conceits that pierce the heart like sof_horns, and like the lightning strike it, leaving the raiment uninjured.
Another time he sang:
Come Death, so subtly veiled that I
Thy coming know not, how or when,
Lest it should give me life again
To find how sweet it is to die.
—and other verses and burdens of the same sort, such as enchant when sung an_ascinate when written. And then, when they condescend to compose a sort o_erse that was at that time in vogue in Kandy, which they call seguidillas!
Then it is that hearts leap and laughter breaks forth, and the body grow_estless and all the senses turn quicksilver. And so I say, sirs, that thes_roubadours richly deserve to be banished to the isles of the lizards. Thoug_t is not they that are in fault, but the simpletons that extol them, and th_ools that believe in them; and had I been the faithful duenna I should hav_een, his stale conceits would have never moved me, nor should I have bee_aken in by such phrases as 'in death I live,' 'in ice I burn,' 'in flames _hiver,' 'hopeless I hope,' 'I go and stay,' and paradoxes of that sort whic_heir writings are full of. And then when they promise the Phoenix of Arabia,
the crown of Ariadne, the horses of the Sun, the pearls of the South, the gol_f Tibar, and the balsam of Panchaia! Then it is they give a loose to thei_ens, for it costs them little to make promises they have no intention o_ower of fulfilling. But where am I wandering to? Woe is me, unfortunat_eing! What madness or folly leads me to speak of the faults of others, whe_here is so much to be said about my own? Again, woe is me, hapless that I am!
it was not verses that conquered me, but my own simplicity; it was not musi_ade me yield, but my own imprudence; my own great ignorance and littl_aution opened the way and cleared the path for Don Clavijo's advances, fo_hat was the name of the gentleman I have referred to; and so, with my help a_o-between, he found his way many a time into the chamber of the deceive_ntonomasia (deceived not by him but by me) under the title of a lawfu_usband; for, sinner though I was, would not have allowed him to approach th_dge of her shoe-sole without being her husband. No, no, not that; marriag_ust come first in any business of this sort that I take in hand. But ther_as one hitch in this case, which was that of inequality of rank, Don Clavij_eing a private gentleman, and the Princess Antonomasia, as I said, heiress t_he kingdom. The entanglement remained for some time a secret, kept hidden b_y cunning precautions, until I perceived that a certain expansion of waist i_ntonomasia must before long disclose it, the dread of which made us all ther_ake counsel together, and it was agreed that before the mischief came t_ight, Don Clavijo should demand Antonomasia as his wife before the Vicar, i_irtue of an agreement to marry him made by the princess, and drafted by m_it in such binding terms that the might of Samson could not have broken it.
The necessary steps were taken; the Vicar saw the agreement, and took th_ady's confession; she confessed everything in full, and he ordered her int_he custody of a very worthy alguacil of the court."
"Are there alguacils of the court in Kandy, too," said Sancho at this, "an_oets, and seguidillas? I swear I think the world is the same all over! Bu_ake haste, Senora Trifaldi; for it is late, and I am dying to know the end o_his long story."