Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra.

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further for being spent under my own directions. My household linen, of
which I have a large and excellent stock, did not come out of drapers'
shops or warehouses; these fingers and those of my maid servants
stitched it all, and it would have been woven at home had that been
possible. If I give myself these commendations, it is because I cannot
incur your censure by uttering what it is absolutely necessary that you
should know. In fine, I wish to say that I desire a husband to protect,
command, and honour me, and not a gallant to flatter and abuse me: if
you like to accept the gift that is offered you, here I am, ready and
willing to put myself wholly at your disposal, without going into the
public market with my hand, for it amounts to no less to place oneself
at the mercy of match-makers' tongues, and no one is so fit to arrange
the whole affair as the parties themselves."

My wits were not in my head at that moment, but in my heels. Delighted
beyond imagination, and seeing before me such a quantity of property,
which I already beheld by anticipation converted into ready money,
without making any other reflections than those suggested by the longing
that fettered my reason, I told her that I was fortunate and blest above
all men since heaven had given me by a sort of miracle such a companion,
that I might make her the lady of my affections and my fortune, - a
fortune which was not so small, but that with that chain which I wore
round my neck, and other jewels which I had at home, and by disposing
of some military finery, I could muster more than two thousand ducats,
which, with her two thousand five hundred, would be enough for us to
retire upon to a village of which I was a native, and where I had
relations and some patrimony. Its yearly increase, helped by our money,
would enable us to lead a cheerful and unembarrassed life. In fine, our
union was at once agreed on; the banns were published on three
successive holidays (which happened to fall together), and on the fourth
day, the marriage was celebrated in the presence of two mends of mine,
and a youth who she said was her cousin, and to whom I introduced myself
as a relation with words of great urbanity. Such, indeed, were all those
which hitherto I had bestowed on my bride - with how crooked and
treacherous an intention I would rather not say; for though I am telling
truths, they are not truths under confession which must not be kept
back.

My servant removed my trunk from my lodgings to my wife's house. I put
by my magnificent chain in my wife's presence; showed her three or four
others, not so large, but of better workmanship, with three or four
other trinkets of various kinds; laid before her my best dresses and my
plumes, and gave her about four hundred reals, which I had, to defray
the household expenses. For six days I tasted the bread of wedlock,
enjoying myself like a beggarly bridegroom in the house of a rich
father-in-law. I trod on rich carpets, lay in holland sheets, had silver
candlesticks to light me, breakfasted in bed, rose at eleven o'clock,
dined at twelve, and at two took my siesta in the drawing-room. Doña
Estefania and the servant girl danced attendance upon me; my servant,
whom I had always found lazy, was suddenly become nimble as a deer. If
ever Doña Estefania quitted my side, it was to go to the kitchen and
devote all her care to preparing fricassees to please my palate and
quicken my appetite. My shirts, collars, and handkerchiefs were a very
Aranjuez of flowers, so drenched they were with fragrant waters. Those
days flew fast, like the years which are under the jurisdiction of time;
and seeing myself so regaled and so well treated, I began to change for
the better the evil intention with which I had begun this affair.

At the end of them, one morning, whilst I was still in bed with Doña
Estefania, there was a loud knocking and calling at the street door. The
servant girl put her head out of the window, and immediately popped it
in again, saying, - "There she is, sure enough; she is come sooner than
she mentioned in her letter the other day, but she is welcome!"

"Who's come, girl?" said I.

"Who?" she replied; "why, my lady Doña Clementa Bueso, and with her
señor Don Lope Melendez de Almendarez, with two other servants, and
Hortigosa, the dueña she took with her."

"Bless me! Run, wench, and open the door for them," Doña Estefania now
exclaimed; "and you, señor, as you love me, don't put yourself out, or
reply for me to anything you may hear said against me."

"Why, who is to say anything to offend you, especially when I am by?
Tell me, who are these people, whose arrival appears to have upset you?"

"I have no time to answer," said Doña Estefania; "only be assured that
whatever takes place here will be all pretended, and bears upon a
certain design which you shall know by and by."

Before I could make any reply to this, in walked Doña Clementa Bueso,
dressed in lustrous green satin, richly laced with gold, a hat with
green, white, and pink feathers, a gold hat-band, and a fine veil
covering half her face. With her entered Don Lope Melendez de Almendarez
in a travelling suit, no less elegant than rich. The dueña Hortigosa was
the first who opened her lips, exclaiming, "Saints and angels, what is
this! My lady Doña Clementa's bed occupied, and by a man too! Upon my
faith, the señora Doña Estefania has availed herself of my lady's
friendliness to some purpose!"

"That she has, Hortigosa," replied Doña Clementa; "but I blame myself
for never being on my guard against friends who can only be such when it
is for their own advantage."

To all this Doña Estefania replied: "Pray do not be angry, my lady Doña
Clementa. I assure you there is a mystery in what you see; and when you
are made acquainted with it you will acquit me of all blame."

During this time I had put on my hose and doublet, and Doña Estefania,
taking me by the hand, led me into another room. There she told me that
this friend of hers wanted to play a trick on that Don Lope who was
come with her, and to whom she expected to be married. The trick was to
make him believe that the house and everything in it belonged to
herself. Once married, it would matter little that the truth was
discovered, so confident was the lady in the great love of Don Lope; the
property would then be returned; and who could blame her, or any woman,
for contriving to get an honourable husband, though it were by a little
artifice? I replied that it was a very great stretch of friendship she
thought of making, and that she ought to look well to it beforehand, for
very probably she might be constrained to have recourse to justice to
recover her effects. She gave me, however, so many reasons, and alleged
so many obligations by which she was bound to serve Doña Clementa even
in matters of more importance, that much against my will, and with sore
misgivings, I complied with Doña Estefania's wishes, on the assurance
that the affair would not last more than eight days, during which we
were to lodge with another friend of hers.

We finished dressing; she went to take her leave of the señora Doña
Clementa Bueso and the señor Lope Melendez Almendarez, ordered my
servant to follow her with my luggage, and I too followed without taking
leave of any one. Doña Estefania stopped at a friend's house, and stayed
talking with her a good while, leaving us in the street, till at last a
girl came out and told me and my servant to come in. We went up stairs
to a small room in which there were two beds so close together that they
seemed but one, for the bed-clothes actually touched each other. There
we remained six days, during which not an hour passed in which we did
not quarrel; for I was always telling her what a stupid thing she had
done in giving up her house and goods, though it were to her own mother.
One day, when Doña Estefania had gone out, as she said, to see how her
business was going on, the woman of the house asked me what was the
reason of my wrangling so much with my wife, and what had she done for
which I scolded her so much, saying it was an act of egregious folly
rather than of perfect friendship. I told her the whole story, how I had
married Doña Estefania, the dower she had brought me, and the folly she
had committed in leaving her house and goods to Doña Clementa, even
though it was for the good purpose of catching such a capital husband as
Don Lope. Thereupon the woman began to cross and bless herself at such
a rate, and to cry out, "O, Lord! O, the jade!" that she put me into a
great state of uneasiness. At last, "Señor Alferez," said she, "I don't
know but I am going against my conscience in making known to you what I
feel would lie heavy on it if I held my tongue. Here goes, however, in
the name of God, - happen what may, the truth for ever, and lies to the
devil! The truth is, that Doña Clementa Bueso is the real owner of the
house and property which you have had palmed upon you for a dower; the
lies are every word that Doña Estefania has told you, for she has
neither house nor goods, nor any clothes besides those on her back. What
gave her an opportunity for this trick was that Doña Clementa went to
visit one of her relations in the city of Plasencia, and there to
perform a novenary in the church of our Lady of Guadalupe, meanwhile
leaving Doña Estefania to look after her house, for in fact they are
great friends. And after all, rightly considered, the poor señora is not
to blame, since she has had the wit to get herself such a person as the
Señor Alferez for a husband."

Here she came to an end, leaving me almost desperate; and without doubt
I should have become wholly so, if my guardian angel had failed in the
least to support me, and whisper to my heart that I ought to consider I
was a Christian, and that the greatest sin men can be guilty of is
despair, since it is the sin of devils. This consideration, or good
inspiration, comforted me a little; not so much, however, but that I
took my cloak and sword, and went out in search of Doña Estefania,
resolved to inflict upon her an exemplary chastisement; but chance
ordained, whether for my good or not I cannot tell, that she was not to
be found in any of the places where I expected to fall in with her. I
went to the church of San Lorente, commended me to our Lady, sat down on
a bench, and in my affliction fell into so deep a sleep that I should
not have awoke for a long time if others had not roused me. I went with
a heavy heart to Doña Clementa's, and found her as much at ease as a
lady should be in her own house. Not daring to say a word to her,
because Señor Don Lope was present, I returned to my landlady, who told
me she had informed Doña Estefania that I was acquainted with her whole
roguery; that she had asked how I had seemed to take the news; that
she, the landlady, said I had taken it very badly, and had gone out to
look for her, apparently with the worst intentions; whereupon Doña
Estefania had gone away, taking with her all that was in my trunk, only
leaving me one travelling coat. I flew to my trunk, and found it open,
like a coffin waiting for a dead body; and well might it have been my
own, if sense enough had been left me to comprehend the magnitude of my
misfortune.

"Great it was, indeed," observed the licentiate Peralta; "only to think
that Doña Estefania carried off your fine chain and hat-band! Well, it
is a true saying, 'Misfortunes never come single.'"

I do not so much mind that loss, replied the Alferez, since I may apply
to myself the old saw, "My father-in-law thought to cheat me by putting
off his squinting daughter upon me; and I myself am blind of an eye."

"I don't know in what respect you can say that?" replied Peralta.

Why, in this respect, that all that lot of chains and gewgaws might be
worth some ten or twelve crowns.

"Impossible!" exclaimed the licentiate; "for that which the Señor
Alferez wore on his neck must have weighed more than two hundred
ducats."

So it would have done, replied the Alferez, if the reality had
corresponded with the appearance; but "All is not gold that glitters,"
and my fine things were only imitations, but so well made that nothing
but the touchstone or the fire could have detected that they were not
genuine.

"So, then, it seems to have been a drawn game between you and the Señora
Doña Estefania," said the licentiate.

So much so that we may shuffle the cards and make a fresh deal. Only the
mischief is, Señor Licentiate, that she may get rid of my mock chains,
but I cannot get rid of the cheat she put upon me; for, in spite of my
teeth, she remains my wife.

"You may thank God, Señor Campuzano," said Peralta, "that your wife has
taken to her heels, and that you are not obliged to go in search of
her."

Very true; but for all that, even without looking for her, I always find
her - in imagination; and wherever I am, my disgrace is always present
before me.

"I know not what answer to make you, except to remind you of these two
verses of Petrarch: -

"'Che qui prende diletto di far frode,
Non s'ha di lamentar s'altro l'inganna.'

That is to say, whoever makes it his practice and his pleasure to
deceive others, has no right to complain when he is himself deceived."

But I don't complain, replied the Alferez; only I pity myself - for the
culprit who knows his fault does not the less feel the pain of his
punishment. I am well aware that I sought to deceive and that I was
deceived, and caught in my own snare; but I cannot command my feelings
so much as not to lament over myself. To come, however, to what more
concerns my history (for I may give that name to the narrative of my
adventures), I learned that Doña Estefania had been taken away by that
cousin whom she brought to our wedding, who had been a lover of hers of
long standing. I had no mind to go after her and bring back upon myself
an evil I was rid of. I changed my lodgings and my skin too within a few
days. My eyebrows and eyelashes began to drop; my hair left me by
degrees; and I was bald before my time, and stripped of everything; for
I had neither a beard to comb nor money to spend. My illness kept pace
with my want; and as poverty bears down honour, drives some to the
gallows, some to the hospital, and makes others enter their enemies'
doors with cringing submissiveness, which is one of the greatest
miseries that can befall an unlucky man; that I might not expend upon my
cure the clothes that should cover me respectably in health, I entered
the Hospital of the Resurrection, where I took forty sudations. They say
that I shall get well if I take care of myself. I have my sword; for the
rest I trust in God.

The licentiate renewed his friendly offers, much wondering at the things
he had heard.

If you are surprised at the little I have told you, Señor Peralta, said
the Alferez, what will you say to the other things I have yet to relate,
which exceed all imagination, since they pass all natural bounds? I can
only tell you that they are such that I think it a full compensation for
all my disasters that they were the cause of my entering the hospital,
where I saw what I shall now relate to you; and what you can never
believe; no; nor anybody else in the world.

All these preambles of the Alferez so excited Peralta's curiosity, that
he earnestly desired to hear, in detail, all that remained to be told.

You have no doubt seen, said the Alferez, two dogs going about by night
with lanterns along with the Capuchin brethren, to give them light when
they are collecting alms.

"I have," replied Peralta.

You have also seen, or heard tell of them, that if alms are thrown from
the windows, and happen to fall on the ground, they immediately help
with the light and begin to look for what has fallen; that they stop of
their own accord before the windows from which they know they are used
to receive alms; and that with all their tameness on these occasions, so
that they are more like lambs than dogs, they are lions in the hospital,
keeping guard with great care and vigilance.

"I have heard that all this is as you say," said Peralta; "but there is
nothing in this to move my wonder."

But what I shall now tell you of them, returned the Alferez, is enough
to do so; yet, strange as it is, you must bring yourself to believe it.
One night, the last but one of my sudation, I heard, and all but saw
with my eyes those two dogs, one of which is called Scipio, the other
Berganza, stretched on an old mat outside my room. In the middle of the
night, lying awake in the dark, thinking of my past adventures and my
present sorrows, I heard talking, and set myself to listen attentively,
to see if I could make out who were the speakers and what they said. By
degrees I did both, and ascertained that the speakers were the dogs
Scipio and Berganza.

The words were hardly out of Campuzano's mouth, when the licentiate
jumped up and said: "Saving your favour, Señor Campuzano, till this
moment I was in much doubt whether or not to believe what you have told
me about your marriage; but what you now tell me of your having heard
dogs talk, makes me decide upon not believing you at all. For God's
sake, Señor Alferez, do not relate such nonsense to any body, unless it
be to one who is as much your friend as I am."

Do not suppose I am so ignorant, replied Campuzano, as not to know that
brutes cannot talk unless by a miracle. I well know that if starlings,
jays, and parrots talk, it is only such words as they have learned by
rote, and because they have tongues adapted to pronounce them; but they
cannot, for all that, speak and reply with deliberate discourse as those
dogs did. Many times, indeed, since I heard them I have been disposed
not to believe myself, but to regard as a dream that which, being really
awake, with all the five senses which our Lord was pleased to give me, I
heard, marked, and finally wrote down without missing a word; whence you
may derive proof enough to move and persuade you to believe this verity
which I relate. The matters they talked of were various and weighty,
such as might rather have been discussed by learned men than by the
mouths of dogs; so that, since I could not have invented them out of my
own head, I am come, in spite of myself, to believe that I did not
dream, and that the dogs did talk.

"Body of me!" exclaimed the licentiate, "are the times of Æsop come back
to us, when the cock conversed with the fox, and one beast with
another?"

I should be one of them, and the greatest, replied the Alferez, if I
believed that time had returned; and so I should be, too, if I did not
believe what I have heard and seen, and what I am ready to swear to by
any form of oath that can constrain incredulity itself to believe. But,
supposing that I have deceived myself, and that this reality was a
dream, and that to contend for it is an absurdity, will it not amuse
you, Señor Peralta, to see, written in the form of a dialogue, the
matters talked of by those dogs, or whoever the speakers may have been?

"Since you no longer insist on having me believe that you heard dogs
talk," replied Peralta, "with much pleasure I will hear this colloquy,
of which I augur well, since it is reported by a gentlemen of such
talents as the Señor Alferez."

Another thing I have to remark, said Campuzano, is, that, as I was very
attentive, my apprehension very sensitive, and my memory very retentive
(thanks to the many raisins and almonds I had swallowed), I got it all
by heart, and wrote it down, word for word, the next day, without
attempting to colour or adorn it, or adding or suppressing anything to
make it attractive. The conversation took place not on one night only,
but on two consecutive nights, though I have not written down more than
one dialogue, that which contains the life of Berganza. His comrade
Scipio's life, which was the subject of the second night's discourse, I
intend to write out, if I find that the first one is believed, or at
least not despised. I have thrown the matter into the form of a dialogue
to avoid the cumbrous repetition of such phrases as, _said Scipio_,
_replied Berganza_.

So saying, he took a roll of paper out of his breast pocket, and put it
in the hands of the licentiate, who received it with a smile, as if he
made very light of all he had heard, and was about to read.

I will recline on this sofa, said the Alferez, whilst you are reading
those dreams or ravings, if you will, which have only this to recommend
them, that you may lay them down when you grow tired of them.

"Make yourself comfortable," said Peralta; "and I will soon despatch my
reading."

The Alferez lay down; the licentiate opened the scroll, and found it
headed as follows: -

* * * * *

DIALOGUE BETWEEN SCIPIO AND BERGANZA,

DOGS OF THE HOSPITAL OF THE RESURRECTION IN THE CITY OF VALLADOLID,
COMMONLY CALLED THE DOGS OF MAHUDES.


_Scip._ Berganza, my friend, let us leave our watch over the hospital
to-night, and retire to this lonely place and these mats, where, without
being noticed, we may enjoy that unexampled favour which heaven has
bestowed on us both at the same moment.

_Berg._ Brother Scipio, I hear you speak, and know that I am speaking to
you; yet cannot I believe, so much does it seem to me to pass the bounds
of nature.

_Scip._ That is true, Berganza; and what makes the miracle greater is,
that we not only speak but hold intelligent discourse, as though we had
souls capable of reason; whereas we are so far from having it, that the
difference between brutes and man consists in this, that man is a
rational animal and the brute is irrational.

_Berg._ I hear all you say, Scipio; and that you say it, and that I
hear it, causes me fresh admiration and wonder. It is very true that in
the course of my life I have many a time heard tell of our great
endowments, insomuch that some, it appears, have been disposed to think
that we possess a natural instinct, so vivid and acute in many things
that it gives signs and tokens little short of demonstrating that we
have a certain sort of understanding capable of reason.

_Scip._ What I have heard highly extolled is our strong memory, our
gratitude, and great fidelity; so that it is usual to depict us as
symbols of friendship. Thus you will have seen (if it has ever come
under your notice) that, on the alabaster tombs, on which are
represented the figures of those interred in them, when they are husband
and wife, a figure of a dog is placed between the pair at their feet, in
token that in life their affection and fidelity to each other was
inviolable,

_Berg._ I know that there have been grateful dogs who have cast
themselves into the same grave with the bodies of their deceased
masters; others have stood over the graves in which their lords were
buried without quitting them or taking food till they died. I know,
likewise, that next to the elephant the dog holds the first place in the
way of appearing to possess understanding, then the horse, and last the
ape.

_Scip._ True; but you will surely confess that you never saw or heard
tell of any elephant, dog, horse, or monkey having talked: hence I
infer, that this fact of our coming by the gift of speech so
unexpectedly falls within the list of those things which are called
portents, the appearance of which indicates, as experience testifies,
that some great calamity threatens the nations.

_Berg._ That being so I can readily enough set down as a portentous
token what I heard a student say the other day as I passed through
Alcala de Henares.

_Scip._ What was that?

_Berg._ That of five thousand students this year attending the
university - two thousand are studying medicine.

_Scip._ And what do you infer from that?

_Berg._ I infer either that those two thousand doctors will have
patients to treat, and that would be a woful thing, or that they must
die of hunger.

_Scip._ Be that as it may, let us talk, portent or no portent; for what
heaven has ordained to happen, no human diligence or wit can prevent.
Nor is it needful that we should fall to disputing as to the how or the
why we talk. Better will it be to make the best of this good clay or
good night at home; and since we enjoy it so much on these mats, and
know not how long this good fortune of ours may last, let us take
advantage of it and talk all night, without suffering sleep to deprive
us of a pleasure which I, for my part, have so long desired.

_Berg._ And I, too; for ever since I had strength enough to gnaw a bone



Online LibraryMiguel de Cervantes SaavedraThe Exemplary Novels of Cervantes → online text (page 12 of 42)