Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

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Chapter XII. About what a goatherd told those who were with don Quixote.
At that point, a boy, whose job was to bring supplies from the village, arrived and said: “Do you know what’s going on in the village?”

“How can we know?” responded one of them.

“Well,” he continued, “this morning that famous student-shepherd named Grisóstomo died, and the word is that he died because of his love for that bedeviled girl of Marcela—the daughter of Guillermo the Rich—the one who wanders about these parts dressed like a shepherdess.”

“You mean Marcela?”182 said one.

“That’s the one,” responded the goatherd. “And the strange thing is that he stipulated in his will that he be buried in the wilderness, as if he were a Moor, and that it be at the foot of a boulder where the spring flows by the cork tree, because, as the story goes—they say he said it—that’s the place where he saw her for the first time. He stipulated other things as well, such that the parish priest in town says they don’t need to be complied with since they smack of paganism. His great friend Ambrosio, the other student who dresses like a shepherd, responds to all this by saying that everything must be done exactly as Grisóstomo specified, and because of this, the whole town is in an uproar. But according to what they say, they’ll do what Ambrosio and all the other shepherds want, and tomorrow they’ll bury him with great ceremony where I said. And it’s my opinion that it’ll be something really worth seeing; at least I’ll make sure to go see it, if I don’t have to return to my village tomorrow.”

“We’ll all do the same,” responded the goatherds, “and we’ll draw straws to see who will stay to watch over everyone’s goats.”

“Well spoken, Pedro,” said one, “but it won’t be necessary to resort to that because I’ll stay. And don’t attribute it to righteousness or lack of interest on my part, but rather to the fact that I can’t go because of a thorn that pierced my foot the other day.”

“We thank you all the same,” responded Pedro.

And don Quixote begged Pedro to tell him more about who the dead man and the shepherdess were. Pedro responded that what he knew was that the dead man was a rich hidalgo who lived in a village in those same mountains. He’d been a student for many years at Salamanca183 and had then returned to his village, and people thought he was very wise and learned. “Mainly, they said he knew the science of the stars and what goes on in the heavens with the sun and the moon, because he told us exactly when clipses of the sun and moon would take place.”

“It’s called eclipse, my friend, and not clipse, when those two great luminaries grow dark,” said don Quixote.

But Pedro, not fretting over trifles, continued his story saying: “He also foretold whether the year would be fruitful or virile.”

Sterile is what you mean to say, not virile, my friend,” said don Quixote.

Sterile or virile, it’s all the same. And I can tell you that in this way, his father and friends who believed him became very rich because they did what he advised them to do when he said: ‘This year sow barley and not wheat; this year you can sow chick-peas but not barley; next year will be a good harvest of olive oil and the three following years there won’t be a drop.’ ”

“That science is called astrology,” said don Quixote.

“I don’t know what it’s called,” replied Pedro, “but I do know that he knew all this and more. Finally, not many months after he came home from Salaman­ca, one day he showed up dressed like a shepherd, with a crook and sheepskin jacket replacing his long student’s robe. Along with him, another great friend of his named Ambrosio, who had been a fellow student, also dressed up as a shepherd. I forgot to say that Grisóstomo, the dead man, had quite a hand at making up verses. He was so good that he even did the carols for Christmas Eve and little plays for Corpus Christi, which the boys of our town put on and which everybody said were really good. When the townspeople saw the two scholars suddenly changed into shepherds, they were astonished, and they couldn’t guess what had moved them to make that odd change. By this time Grisóstomo’s father had died and he’d inherited great wealth in goods as well as property, and not a few head of cattle, large and small,184 and a lot of money; and the young man became the absolute owner of all this, and in truth he deserved it—he was a good compañero, a charitable fellow, a friend of the good people, and his face was like a blessing. Afterwards, we learned that his change of clothing was for no other reason than to wander in the wilderness to be near the shepherdess Marcela, who that young fellow mentioned earlier, and who poor Grisóstomo had fallen in love with. And I want to tell you now, because it’s important for you to know, who this young girl is. Perhaps, and even without «perhaps», you won’t have heard anything like it in all the days of your life, even though you live longer than sarna.185

“You mean ‘Sarah,’ ”186 replied don Quixote, not being able to stand the goatherd’s confusion of words.

Sarna lives long enough,” responded Pedro, “and, señor, if you’re going to try to fix all my words, we won’t finish in a year.”

“Forgive me, my friend,” said don Quixote, “it’s only because there’s so much difference between sarna and Sarah, that I mentioned it to you. But you responded very well, because the itch does live longer than Sarah. So, go on with your story, and I won’t correct anything else.”

“I say, then, señor mío of my soul,” said the goatherd, “that in our village there was a peasant even richer than Grisóstomo’s father named Guillermo, to whom God gave—aside from his great wealth—a daughter whose mother died in childbirth, and she was the most respected woman in these parts. I can just see her now, with that face that had the sun on one side and the moon on the other. She was hard-working and charitable with the poor, and that’s why I think that her soul must be enjoying God at this very moment in the other world. Out of grief over the death of such a good wife, her husband Guillermo died, leaving his daughter, Marcela, young and rich, in the care of an uncle of hers, a priest in our village. The girl grew into such a beauty that she reminded us of her mother, who was very beautiful, and it was thought that her own beauty would surpass that of her mother.

“And so, when she got to the age of fourteen or fifteen, no one could look at her who didn’t praise God, who had made her so beautiful, and most men fell hopelessly in love with her. Her uncle secluded her, but even so, the fame of her great beauty spread so that young men not only from our own village, but also the best men for leagues around, begged, entreated, and importuned her uncle to give her to them as their bride. But he, as should be the case, is a good Christian, and although he wanted to marry her off as soon as he saw she was of age, he wouldn’t do it without her consent, without regard for the income that he’d get as long as she didn’t marry. And I must say that even the gossipers in our village said this in praise of the priest. I want you to know, señor errant, that in these little villages everything is discussed and everything is gossiped about. And rest assured, as I do, that a priest has to be exceptionally good for his parishioners to say good things about him, especially in villages.”

“That’s the truth,” said don Quixote. “Now go on with your story, for it’s very good, and Pedro, you’re telling it with such grace.”

“May the grace of our Lord not fail me, since that’s the most important thing. And getting back to the story, although the uncle presented each suitor to his niece and told her of the qualities of everyone who asked to marry her, begging her to marry and to choose as she pleased, she responded only by saying that she didn’t want to get married right then and that, since she was still so young, she didn’t feel able to take on the responsibility of being married. With these seemingly proper excuses, her uncle stopped pestering her, and waited for her to get older to choose a husband who would please her. He said—and he was right, too—that parents shouldn’t marry off their children against their wishes. But here’s the thing—when I least expected it, that persnickety Marcela showed up one day dressed as a shepherdess; and even though her uncle and the rest of the townspeople advised against it, she went into the countryside with the rest of the girls of the village and took to tending her own flock of sheep. And as soon as she came out into the open and everybody could see how beautiful she was, I can’t begin to tell you how many rich young men—hidalgos and peasants—have taken up the same costume as Grisóstomo, and roam about these fields trying to court her. One of them, as has been said, was our deceased friend, about whom they say that he didn’t just love her—he worshiped her.

“And don’t think that just because Marcela took on that free and independent lifestyle with so little privacy—or rather no privacy at all—that she’s given the slightest indication of anything that would discredit her chastity or virtue. She rather is so vigilant in the way she looks after her honor that of all those who court her, none has been able to boast, nor in truth will be able to boast that she’s ever given the least hope of fulfilling his desire. She doesn’t flee from or disdain the company and conversation of the shepherds, and she treats them courteously and in a friendly way, but when any of them reveals his intention, even though it’s the pure and holy one of matrimony, she rejects him as if he were shot from a catapult. With this behavior of hers, she does more damage in this country than the plague, because her graciousness and beauty attract the hearts of those who come into contact with her to serve and love her, but her scorn and reproofs drive them to despair, and so they’re baffled about what to say to her except to call her cruel and ungrateful to her face, and other similar things that attest to her character. And if you stayed here, señor, one day you’d hear these mountains and valleys resound with the lamentations of these rejected suitors.

“Not far from here is a place where there are about two dozen beech trees, and every one of them has Marcela’s name carved into its bark, and over the name you’ll sometimes see a crown, as if her would-be lover is saying that Marcela wears the deserved crown of human beauty. Over here a shepherd might sing, over there another complains, way over there you hear love songs, and back over here, despairing dirges. One fellow spends the night at the foot of an oak tree or a boulder and stays there with­out ever closing his tearful eyes, be­mused and carried away by his thoughts until he’s found by the rays of morning sun. Another one, stretched out on the burning sand and continually sighing during the hottest part of the most vexatious mid-afternoon heat of summer, sends his appeal to the most merciful heavens. And Marcela conquers this one and that one, and these and those freely and without embarrassment; and all who know her are wondering how far her haughtiness can go and who will finally succeed in taming such a terrible nature and enjoying such an incredible beauty. Since everything I’ve said is such a proven truth, I can well believe that what our young friend has just told us of the cause of Grisóstomo­’s death is also true. And so I advise you, señor, to make sure you come tomorrow to his burial, which will be something to see, because Grisóstomo has a lot of friends, and it’s not half a league from this place to where he’s to be buried.”

“I’ll make a point of it,” said don Quixote, “and I thank you for the pleasure you’ve given me in the narration of such a delightful story.”

“Oh,” replied the goatherd, “I don’t even know half of the things that have happened to the lovers of Marcela; it could be that tomorrow we’ll come across some shepherd who could fill you in, but for now it’d be good for you to sleep inside because the night air could make your wound worse, although the medicine they put on it is so good that you don’t need to fear any infection.”

Sancho Panza, who by this time was cursing the longwindedness of the goatherd, begged his master to find a place to sleep in Pedro’s hut. That’s what he did, but he spent all or most of the night thinking about his lady Dulcinea, in imitation of Marcela’s lovers. Sancho Panza made himself as comfortable as he could between Rocinante and his donkey, and he slept—not like an injured lover, but rather like a man half-beaten to death.

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