Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1547–1616). Don Quixote, Part 1.
The Fourth Book
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.
XXIV. Relating That Which the Goatherd Told to Those That Carried Away Don Quixote
‘THERE is a village distant some three leagues from this valley, which, albeit it be little, is one of the richest of this commark: therein some time did dwell a wealthy farmer of good respect, and so good, as although reputation and riches are commonly joined together, yet that which he had was rather got him by his virtue than by any wealth he possessed; but that which did most accumulate his happiness (as he himself was wont to say) was, that he had a daughter of so accomplished beauty, so rare discretion, comeliness, and virtue, that as many as knew and beheld her admired to see the passing endowments wherewith Heaven and nature had enriched her. Being a child she was fair; and, increasing daily in feature, she was at the age of sixteen most beautiful: the fame whereof extended itself over all the bordering villages. But why say I the bordering villages alone, if it spread itself over the furthest cities, yea, and entered into the king’s palace, and into the ears of all kind of people, so that they came from all parts to behold her, as a rare thing and pattern of miracles? Her father did carefully keep her, and she likewise heeded herself; for there is neither guard, lock, nor bolt able to keep a maiden better than is her own wariness and care. The wealth of the father and worth of the daughter moved divers, as well of his own village as strangers, to demand her to wife; but he (as one whom the disposal of so rich a jewel most nearly concerned) was much perplexed, and unable to determine on whom, among such an infinite number of importunate wooers, he might bestow her. Among others that bore this goodwill towards her, I myself was one to whom they gave many and very great hopes of good success; the knowledge that her father had of me, my birth in the same village, my descent honest, and blood untainted, flourishing in years, very rich in goods, and no less in gifts of the mind. Another of the same village and qualities was also a suitor unto her; which was an occasion to hold her in suspense, and put his will in the balance, deeming, as he did, that she might be bestowed on either of us two. And that he might be rid of that doubt, he resolved to tell it to Leandra (for so do they call the rich maid which hath brought me to extreme misery), noting discreetly that, seeing we both were equals, it would not be amiss to leave in her dear daughter’s power the making choice of whether she liked best: a thing worthy to be noted by all those parents that would have their children marry; wherein my meaning is not that they should permit them to make a bad or a base choice but that they propound certain good ones, and refer to their liking which of them they will take. I know not what was the liking of Leandra, but only know this that the father posted us off, by alleging the over-green years of his daughter, and using general terms, which neither obliged him nor discharged us. My rival was called Anselmo, and myself Eugenio, that you may also have some knowledge of the persons which were actors in this tragedy, whose conclusion is yet depending, but threatens much future disaster.
About the very same time there arrived to our village one Vincent de la Rosa, son to a poor labourer of the same place, which Vincent returned as then from Italy and divers other countries, wherein he had been a soldier; for, being of some twelve years of age, a certain captain, that with his company passed along by our village, did carry him away with him; and the youth, after a dozen years more, came back again attired like a soldier, and painted with a hundred colours, full of a thousand devices of crystal [and with] five steel chains. To-day he would put on some gay thing, the next day some other, but all of them slight, painted, and of little weight, less worth. The clownish people, which are naturally malicious, and if they have but ever so little idleness or leisure become malice itself, did note and reckon up all his braveries and jewels, and found that he had but three suits of apparel of different colours, with garters and stockings answerable to them; but he used so many disguisements, varieties, transformations, and inventions, which they, as if they had not counted them all, some one would have sworn that he had made show of more than ten suits of apparel, and more than twenty plumes of feathers; and let not that which I tell you of the apparel be counted impertinent, or from the matter, for it makes a principal part in the history. He would sit on a bench that stood under a great poplar-tree in the midst of the market-place, and there would hold us all with gaping mouths, listening to the gallant adventures and resolute acts he recounted unto us. There was no land in all the world whose soil he had not trodden on, no battle wherein he had not been present; he had slain more Moors than the kingdoms of Morocco and Tunis contained, and undertaken more single combats, as he said, than ever did either Gante, Luna, or Diego Garcia de Paredes, and a thousand others whom he named; and yet he still came away with victory, without having ever left one drop of blood. On the other side, he would show us signs of wounds, which, although they could not be discerned, yet would he persuade us that they were the marks of bullets which he received in divers skirmishes and wars. Finally, he would “thou” his equals, and those which knew him very well, with marvellous arrogancy; and said that his arm was his father, his works his lineage, and that beside his being a soldier he owed not a whit to the king. To these his arrogancies was annexed some superficial skill in music, for he could scratch a little on a gittern, and some would say that he made it speak; but his many graces made not a stop there, for he had likewise some shadows of poetry, and so would make a ballad of a league and a-half long upon every toy that happened in the village.
‘This soldier, therefore, whom I have deciphered, this Vincent of the Rose, this braggart, this musician, this poet, eyed and beheld many times by Leandra, from a certain window of her house that looked into the market-place; and the golden show of his attire enamoured her, and his ditties enchanted her; for he would give twenty copies of every one he composed. The report of his worthy acts, beautified by himself, came also unto her ears; and finally (for so it is likely the devil had ordered the matter) she became in love with him, before he presumed to think once of soliciting her. And, as in love-adventures no one is accomplished with more facility than that which is favoured by the woman’s desire, Leandra and Vincent made a short and easy agreement; and ere any one of her suitors could once suspect her desires, she had fully satisfied them, abandoned her dear and loving father’s house (for her mother lives not), and running away from the village with the soldier, who departed with more triumph from that enterprise than from all the others which he had arrogated to himself. The accident amazed all the town; yea, and all those to whom the rumour thereof arrived were astonished, Anselmo amazed, her father sorrowful, her kinsfolk ashamed, the ministers of justice careful, and the troopers ready to make pursuit. All the ways were laid, and the woods and every other place nearly searched; and at the end of three days they found the lustful Leandra hidden in a cave within a wood, naked in her smock, and despoiled of a great sum of money and many precious jewels which she had brought away with her. They returned her to her doleful father’s presence, where, asking how she became so despoiled, she presently confessed that Vincent de la Rosa had deceived her; for, having passed his word to make her his wife, he persuaded her to leave her father’s house, and made her believe that he would carry her to the richest and most delightful city of the world, which was Naples; and that she, though indiscretion and his fraud, had given credit to his words, and, robbing her father, stole away with him the very same night that she was missed; and that he carried her to a very rough thicket, and shut her up in that cave wherein they found her. She also recounted how the soldier, without touching her honour, had robbed her of all that she carried, and, leaving her in that cave, was fled away; which success struck us into greater admiration than all the rest, for we could hardly be induced to believe the young gallant’s continency; but she did so earnestly protest it as it did not a little comfort her comfortless father, who made no reckoning of the riches he had lost, seeing his daughter had yet reserved that jewel which, being once gone, could never again be recovered. The same day that Leandra appeared, she also vanished out of our sights, being conveyed away by her father, and shut up in a nunnery at a certain town not far off, hoping that time would illiterate some part of the bad opinion already conceived of his daughter’s facility. Leandra her youth served to excuse her error, at least with those which gained nothing by her being good or ill; but such as knew her discretion and great wit did not attribute her sin to ignorance, but rather to her too much lightness, and the natural infirmity of that sex, which for the most part is inconsiderate and slippery. Leandra being shut up, Anselmo’s eyes lost their light, or at least beheld not anything that could delight them; and mine remained in darkness without light that could address them to any pleasing object, in Leandra’s absence. Our griefs increased, our patience diminished; we cursed the soldier’s ornaments, and abhorred her father’s want of looking to her. To be brief, Anselmo and myself resolved to abandon the village and come to this valley, where, he feeding a great flock of sheep of his own, and I as copious a herd of goats of mine, we pass our lives among these trees, giving vent to our passions, either by singing together the beautiful Leandra’s praises or dispraises, or by sighing alone, and alone communicating our quarrelsome complaints with Heaven. Many others of Leandra’s suitors have since, by our example, come to these intricate woods, where they use our very exercise; and they are so many as it seems that this place is converted into the pastoral Arcadia; it is full of shepherds and sheepfolds, and there is no one part thereof wherein the name of the beautiful Leandra resoundeth not. There one doth curse her, and termeth her humours inconstant and dishonest; another condemns her of being so facile and light; some one absolves and pardons her; another condemns and despises her, and celebrates her beauty; another execrates her disposition; and finally, all blame, but yet adore her; and the raving distraction of them all doth so far extend itself, as some one complains of disdain that never spoke word unto her, and some one laments and feels the enraged fits of jealousy though she never ministered any occasion thereof; for, as I have said, her sin was known before her desires. There is no cleft of a rock, no bank of a stream, nor shadow of a tree, without some shepherd or other, that breathes out his misfortunes to the silent air. The echo repeats Leandra’s name wheresoever it can be formed; the woods resound Leandra; the brooks do murmur Leandra; and Leandra holds us all perplexed and enchanted, hoping without hope, and fearing without knowledge what we fear.
‘And among all this flock of frantic men, none shows more or less judgment than my companion, Anselmo, who, having so many other titles under which he might plain him, only complains of absence, and doth to the sound of a rebec (which he handles admirably well) sing certain doleful verses, which fully discover the excellency of his conceit. I follow a more easy and, in mine opinion, a more certain way—to wit, I rail on the lightness of women, on their inconstancy, double-dealing, dead promises, cracked trust, and the small discretion they show in placing of their affections; and this, sir, was the occasion of the words and reasons I lately used to this goat, whom I do esteem but little because she is a female, although she be otherwise the best of all my herd. And this is the history which I promised to tell you, wherein, if I have been prolix, I will be altogether as large in doing you any service; for I have here at hand my cabin, and therein store of fresh milk and savoury cheese, with many sorts of excellent fruit, no less agreeable to the sight than pleasing to the taste.’