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Chapter 38

  • **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:
  • {verse
  • 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.
  • {verse
  • 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:
  • {verse
  • 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.
  • {verse
  • —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."
  • "I will," replied the countess.