The Story of Cardenio

Fortune favoured Don Quixote in his search for the strange owner
of the portmanteau, for, even as he was speaking to the Goatherd,
he appeared at that very instant through a gorge of the mountain,
murmuring to himself words which one could not have understood near at
hand, much less afar off. His clothes were such as have been described,
only differing in this, that when he drew near, Don Quixote noticed
that he wore a leather jerkin, which, though tattered and torn, was
perfumed with amber. From this he guessed that the man who wore such
garments was a person of quality. On coming towards them, the youth
addressed them in a hoarse tone but with great courtesy, and Don
Quixote returned his greetings with equal kindness, and, alighting from
Rozinante, went to meet him, and clasping him in his arms, embraced him
as though he had known him for a very long time.

Then the stranger, whom we may call the Tattered One, addressed the
Knight of the Rueful Countenance in the following words: ‘Truly, good
Sir, whoever you may be, for I know you not, I thank you with all my
heart for your grace and courtesy towards me, and wish only that I
could repay you some of the kindness you shower on me.’

‘So great is my desire to serve you,’ replied Don Quixote, ‘that I was
fully resolved never to part out of these mountains until I had found
you, and heard from your own lips whether there was any remedy for your
grief. For it is a consolation in sorrow to have some one to condole
with you. And I entreat you, Sir, tell me who you are, and what has
brought you to live and die in these solitudes like a brute beast. For
I swear by the high honour of Knighthood which I have received, that if
you will tell me everything, I will either help you in all good earnest
to overcome your troubles, or, if that cannot be, then I will assist in
lamenting them.’

The Tattered One looked at Don Quixote from head to foot, and stared
at him in amazement for a long time. At length he said: ‘If you have
anything to eat, give it to me, and after I have eaten I will do all
that you ask in return for the kindness you show me.’

Sancho and the Goatherd then gave him what food they had, and this
he devoured with the eagerness of a wild beast, so that he seemed to
swallow the food rather than chew it, and whilst he ate the others left
him in peace. Having ended his dinner, he made signs to them to follow
him, which they did, and he took them to a little meadow hard by that
place at the back of the mountain.

Arriving there he laid himself down on the grass, the others doing the
same, and he began as follows:—

‘If it is your pleasure, Sirs, to hear of my misfortunes, you must
promise me that you will not interrupt the thread of my sad story by
questions or anything else, for directly you do I shall stop telling
it.’

Don Quixote promised in the name of them all, and the Tattered One
commenced his story.

‘My name is Cardenio; the place of my birth one of the best cities in
Andalusia; my lineage noble, my parents rich, and my misfortunes so
great that I think no one was ever to be pitied as I am. There dwelt
in the same city wherein I was born a damsel as noble and rich as I
was, whose name was Lucinda. I loved, honoured, and adored Lucinda
from earliest childhood, and she loved me with all the earnestness of
youth. Our parents knew of our love, and were not sorry to see it, and
so we grew up in mutual esteem and affection. Ah! how many letters have
I written, and how many verses have I penned, and how many songs has
she inspired! At length the time came when I could wait no longer, and
I went to ask her of her father for my lawful wife. He answered that
he thanked me for the desire I showed to honour him and to honour
myself with his loved treasure, but that my father being alive, it was
by strict right his business to make that demand. For if it were not
done with his good will and pleasure, Lucinda was not the woman to be
taken or given by stealth. I thanked him for his kindness, and, feeling
there was reason in what he said, I hurried to my father to tell him
my desires. At the moment I entered his room he was standing with a
letter open in his hand, and before I could speak to him he gave it to
me, saying as he did so: “By that letter, Cardenio, you may learn the
desire that the Duke Ricardo has to do you favour.” This Duke Ricardo,
you must know, gentlemen, is a Grandee of Spain, whose dukedom is
situated in the best part of all Andalusia. I took the letter and read
it, and it was so very kind that it seemed to me wrong that my father
should not do what he asked. For he wanted me as a companion—not as
a servant—to his eldest son, and offered to advance me in life if he
should find me worthy. I read the letter, and could see that it was no
time now to speak to my father, who said to me: “Cardenio, thou must be
ready in two days to depart, and to do all that the Duke desires, and
be thankful that such a future lies open before thee.”

‘The time for my departure arrived. I spoke to my dear Lucinda and also
to her father, and begged him to wait for a while until I knew what the
Duke Ricardo wanted of me, and until my future was certain. He promised
not to bestow his daughter elsewhere, and she vowed to be always
faithful to me, and so I left.

‘I was indeed well received by the Duke Ricardo and nobly treated. His
elder son liked me well, and was kind to me, but the one who rejoiced
most at my coming was Fernando, his second son, a young man who was
both noble, gallant, and very comely. In a short time he had so made me
his friend that there were no secrets between us, and he told me all
his thoughts and desires, and confided to me a love affair of his own
which caused him much anxiety.

‘He had fallen in love with the daughter of a farmer, his father’s
vassal, whose parents were rich, and she herself was beautiful, modest,
and virtuous. But he did not dare to tell his father of his love
because of their difference in rank, and though he had promised to
marry this farmer’s daughter, he had come to fear that the Duke would
never consent to let him carry out his desire. He told me that he could
find no better mode of keeping the remembrance of her beauty out of his
mind, than by leaving home for some months; and he suggested that we
should both depart for awhile to my father’s house, under the pretence
of going to buy horses, for the city where I was born was a place where
they bred the best horses in the world.

‘When I heard of his wishes I did all I could to strengthen them, and
urged him to carry out his plan, which offered me a chance of seeing
once more my dear Lucinda.

‘At last the Duke gave him leave, and ordered me to go with him. We
arrived at my native city, and my father gave him the reception due
to his rank. I again saw Lucinda. My love for her increased, though
indeed it had never grown cold, and to my sorrow I told Don Fernando
all about it, for I thought by the laws of friendship it was not right
to hide anything from him. I described her beauty, her grace, and her
wit, with such eloquence, that my praises stirred in him a desire
to see a damsel enriched by such rare virtues. To my misfortune I
yielded to his wish, and took him with me one night to a window where
Lucinda and I were wont to speak together. He stood mute, as one beside
himself, and from that moment he could speak nothing but praises of
my Lucinda. Yet I confess that I took no pleasure in hearing her thus
praised, because it roused in me a strange feeling of jealousy. I
did not fear the faith and honour of Lucinda, but at the same time I
felt a hidden terror of the future. Now Don Fernando continued, as my
friend, to read all the letters I sent to Lucinda, or she to me, under
the pretence that he took great delight in the wit of both of us, and
it fell out that Lucinda asked me to send her a book of the Knightly
Adventures of Amadis of Gaul.’

No sooner did Don Quixote hear the name of one of his favourite heroes
than he interrupted the story, saying: ‘If, my good Sir, you had told
me that your Lady Lucinda was a reader of knightly adventures, you
need not have said anything else to make me acknowledge her wit. Waste
no further words on her beauty and worth, for now I assert that from
her devotion to books of Knighthood, the Lady Lucinda is the fairest
and most accomplished woman in all the world. Pardon my interruption,
but when I hear anything said of the books of Knights Errant, I can no
more keep from speaking of them than the sunbeams can help giving forth
warmth. Therefore forgive me, and proceed.’

While Don Quixote was speaking, Cardenio held his head down, his face
grew sullen, and he bit his lip. When he looked up, he seemed to have
forgotten all about his story, and in a burst of rage said: ‘A plague
on all your books of Knighthood! Amadis was a fool, and the Queen
Madasima was a wicked woman.’

‘By all that is good,’ replied Don Quixote, in great anger—for this
Queen was a favourite heroine of his—’it is a villainy to say such a
thing. The Queen Madasima was a very noble lady, and whoever says or
thinks the contrary lies like an arrant coward, and this I will make
him know a-horseback or a-foot, armed or disarmed, by night or day, as
he liketh best.’

Cardenio stood gazing at Don Quixote strangely—for now the mad fit
was on him—and hearing himself called liar and coward, he caught up
a stone that was near him, and gave the Knight such a blow with it
that he threw him backwards on the ground. Sancho Panza, seeing his
Master so roughly handled, set upon the madman with his fists, but the
Tattered One overthrew him with one blow and trampled him under his
feet like dough. After this he departed into the wood very quietly.

Sancho got up and wanted to take vengeance on the Goatherd, who, he
said, should have warned them about the madman. The Goatherd declared
he had done so, and Sancho retorted that he had not; and from words
they got to blows, and had seized each other by the beards, when Don
Quixote parted them, saying that the Goatherd was in no way to blame
for what had happened. He then again inquired where Cardenio was likely
to be found, and the Goatherd repeated what he had said at first, that
his abode was uncertain, but that if they went much about in those
parts they would be sure to meet with him either mad or sane.