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CHAPTER XXXVIII. (CONT'D)
On hearing this, the Distressed Duenna made as though she would throw herself at Don Quixote's feet, and actually did fall before them and said, as she strove to embrace them, "Before these feet and legs I cast myself, O unconquered knight, as before, what they are, the foundations and pillars of knight-errantry; these feet I desire to kiss, for upon their steps hangs and depends the sole remedy for my misfortune, O valorous errant, whose veritable achievements 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 served knight-errant in this present age or ages past, whose goodness is more extensive than the beard of Trifaldin my companion here of present, well mayest thou boast thyself that, in serving the great Don Quixote, thou art serving, summed up in one, the whole host of knights that have ever borne arms in the worl
I conjure thee, by what thou owest to thy most loyal goodness, that thou wilt become my kind intercessor with thy master, that he speedily give aid to this most humble and most unfortunate countess."
To this Sancho made answer, "As to my goodness, senora, being as long and as great as your squire's beard, it matters very little to me; may I have my soul well 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 these blandishments 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 aid your worship as far as he can; unpack your woes and lay them before us, and leave 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 this adventure, were ready to burst with laughter at all this, and between themselves they commended the clever acting of the Trifaldi, who, returning to her seat, said, "Queen Dona Maguncia reigned over the famous kingdom of Kandy, which lies between the great Trapobana and the Southern Sea, two leagues beyond Cape Comorin. She was the widow of King Archipiela, her lord and husband, and of their marriage they had issue the Princess Antonomasia, heiress of the kingdom; which Princess Antonomasia was reared and brought up under my care and direction, I being the oldest and highest in rank of her mother's duennas. Time passed, and the young Antonomasia reached the age of fourteen, and such a perfection of beauty, that nature could not raise it higher.
Then, it must not be supposed her intelligence was childish; she was as intelligent as she was fair, and she was fairer than all the world; and is so still, unless the envious fates and hard-hearted sisters three have cut for her the thread of life. But that they have not, for Heaven will not suffer so great a wrong to Earth, as it would be to pluck unripe the grapes of the fairest vineyard on its surface.
Of this beauty, to which my poor feeble tongue 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 at the court, dared to raise his thoughts to the heaven of so great beauty, trusting to his youth, his gallant bearing, his numerous accomplishments and graces, and his quickness and readiness of wit; for I may tell your highnesses, if I am not wearying you, that he played the guitar so as to make it speak, and he was, besides, a poet and a great dancer, and he could make birdcages so well, that by making them alone he might have gained a livelihood, had he found himself reduced to utter poverty; and gifts and graces of this kind are enough to bring down a mountain, not to say a tender young girl.
But all his gallantry, wit, and gaiety, all his graces and accomplishments, would have been of little or no avail towards gaining the fortress of my pupil, had not the impudent thief taken the precaution of gaining me over first. First, the villain and heartless vagabond sought to win my good-will and purchase my compliance, so as to get me, like a treacherous warder, to deliver up to him the keys of the fortress I had in charge. In a word, he gained an influence over my mind, and overcame my resolutions with I know not what trinkets and jewels he gave me; but it was some verses I heard him 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 I remember 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.
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