Cervantes, Don Quixote,
book 2, chapter 16: Cruel Maritornes and Don Quixote
Text: The History and the Adventures of the Renowned Don Quixote, trans. T. Smollett, 4 vols., 6th ed. (London 1792), vol. 2, chap. 16, pp. 218–21:
They accordingly went to rest, and a general silence prevailed over the whole house, in which there was not a soul awake, except the inn-keeper’s daughter and her maid Maritornes, who, by this time, being acquainted with the extravagant humour of Don Quixote, and knowing that he was then without the gate, keeping guard in arms, and on horseback, determined to play some trick upon him, or, at least, divert themselves in listening to his folly.
The inn chancing to have no window nor opening towards the field, but a hole through which they took in their straw; this pair of demi-ladies there took their station, and observed Don Quixote, who sat on horse-back, leaning upon his lance, and breathing from time to time such profound and doleful sighs, as seemed to tear his very soul: they likewise heard him pronounce, in a soft, complacent, and amorous tone, “O my dear mistress, Dulcinea del Tobofo! thou perfection of beauty, scope and sum-total of discretion, cabinet of good humour, depository of virtue, and lastly, the idea of all that is useful, chaste, and delectable in this life! in what art thou at present employed? Art thou reflecting upon thy captive knight, who voluntarily subjects himself to such dangers, with the sole view of serving thee? . . .
So far had the knight proceeded in this piteous exclamation, when the inn-keeper’s daughter whispered softly, “Sir knight, will your worship be pleased to come this way?” Hearing this invitation, he lifted up his eyes, and by the light of the moon, which was then in full splendor, perceived them beckon to him from the straw hole, which he mistook for a window, adorned with gilded bars, suitable to the grandeur of such a magnificent castle as the inn appeared: then his crazy imagination instantly suggested, as before, that the beauteous damsel, daughter of the constable, being captivated by his person, intended again to solicit his love. On this supposition, that he might not seem discourteous or ungrateful, he turned Rozinante, and riding up to the hole, no sooner perceived the two lasses, than he said, “I am extremely concerned, most beautiful lady, that you have fixed your amorous inclinations where it is impossible they should meet with that return which is due to your rank and qualifications; but you ought not to impute your disappointment to any fault in me, whom love hath rendered incapable of yielding my heart to any other but to her, who at first sight took absolute possession of my soul.
Pardon my refusal, honoured madam, and retire to your apartment, without seeking to explain your sentiments more fully, that I may not appear insensible or ungrateful; and if your love can find in me the power of giving you any other sort of satisfaction, you may freely command my service; for I swear by that absent and amiable enemy of mine, to gratify your wish immediately; even if you should desire to have a lock of Medusa’s hair, which was altogether composed of snakes, or the rays of the sun confined in a vial.”
“Sir knight,” answered Maritornes, “my lady has no occasion for either of these things.” “What then is your lady’s pleasure, discreet Duenna?” resumed the knight. “Only the favour of one of your beautiful hands,” replied Maritornes, “with which she may, in some measure, indulge the longing desire that brought her to this straw-hole, so much to the danger of her reputation, that if she should be detected by her father, the first slice of his indignation would cost her an ear at least.” “I would fain see him take that liberty,” said Don Quixote; “but he will take care to refrain from any such acts of barbarity, unless he had a mind I should bring him to the most calamitous exit that ever happened to a father, for having laid violent hands upon the delicate members of his enamoured daughter.”
Maritornes concluding that he would certainly grant the request, and having already determined on what she was to do, ran down to the stable, and laid hold of the halter belonging to Sancho’s ass, with which she instantly returned, just when Don Quixote had made shift to set his feet on the saddle that he might reach the gilded window, at which he imagined the wounded damsel was standing: presenting therefore his hand, “Receive, madam,” said he, “that hand, or rather that chastiser of all evil-doers; receive, I say, that hand, which was never touched by any other woman, not even by her who is in possession of my whole body. I do not present it to be kissed; but that you may contemplate the contexture of its nerves, the knittings of the muscles, the large and swelling veins; from whence you may conjecture what strength must reside in the arm to which it belongs.” “That we shall see presently,” said Maritornes, who having made a running knot on the halter, fixed it upon his wrist, and descending from the hole, made fast the other end to the bolt of the hay loft door. The knight feeling the roughness of this bracelet, said, “Your ladyship seems to rasp rather than to clasp my hand: do not treat it so cruelly; for it is not to blame for what you suffer from my inclination; nor is it just that such a small part should bear the whole brunt of your indignation: consider that one who is such a friend to love, ought not to be so attached to revenge.”
All these expostulations of Don Quixote were uttered in vain; for as soon as Maritornes had tied him up, she and her companion, ready to expire with laughing, left him fastened in such a manner, that it was impossible for him to get loose: thus, while he stood on Rozinante’s back, with his whole arm thrust up into the straw-hole, and fast tied to the bolt of the door, he was in the utmost apprehension and dread, that if his horse should make the least motion to either side, he must lose his support, and the weight of his whole body hang by one arm; so that he durst not venture to stir; though he might have expected, from the patience and peaceful disposition of Rozinante, that he would stand motionless for a whole century.
[Illustration from The History of the Renowned Don Quixote de la Mancha, translated “by several hands,” 4 vols., 4th ed. (London 1719), 2:214:]