Those who heard Grisóstomo’s song thought it was good, although the one who read it said that it didn’t quite agree with what he’d heard of Marcela’s modesty and goodness, because in it he complained of jealousy, suspicion, and absence, all to the detriment of Marcela’s reputation and good name. Ambrosio responded, since he knew the most hidden thoughts of his friend: “So that you’ll be freed from these doubts, señor, I want you to know that when this unfortunate fellow wrote this song he was away from Marcela—he’d absented himself from her of his own free will, to see what effect this absence would have on him. And since there’s nothing that doesn’t trouble the absent lover, and no fear that doesn’t haunt him, this imagined jealousy and these feared suspicions tortured him as if they were real. So, the truth that fame proclaims about the goodness of Marcela isn’t diminished, and with her, envy shouldn’t, indeed cannot, find any fault, although she is cruel and a bit arrogant, and very disdainful.”
“That’s true,” responded Vivaldo. And just when he was at the point of reading from another paper that he’d kept from the flames, he was prevented from it by a wondrous vision that suddenly appeared before their eyes, for that’s what she appeared to be: there was Marcela herself at the top of the boulder where the grave was being dug. She was so beautiful that her beauty exceeded her fame. Those who until then hadn’t seen her, gazed at her speechless and with wonder, and those who were accustomed to seeing her were no less amazed than those who had never seen her before.
But as soon as Ambrosio saw her, he said with obvious indignation: “Have you come, you fierce basilisk of these mountains, to see if blood will start to flow from the wounds of this wretch slain by your cruelty? Or have you come to boast of your cruel deeds, or to survey from those rocky heights, like another Nero, the flames of your burning Rome, or to trample this ill-fated body, like Tarquinius’ ungrateful daughter did? Tell us quickly what you’ve come for, or what your pleasure is. Since I know that in his thoughts Grisóstomo never failed to obey you while he was living, even now that he’s dead, I’ll make everyone who called themselves his friends obey you.”
“I haven’t come for any of the reasons that you’ve listed, Ambrosio,” responded Marcela, “but rather to defend myself and to make you understand how unreasonable are those who, out of their grief, blame me for Grisóstomo’s death. And I beg all those present to listen to me. It won’t take much time or many words to persuade sensible people of the truth.
“Heaven made me beautiful—according to you—so that, in spite of yourselves, my beauty moves you to love me. And you insist that I, in return, am bound to love you back. With the natural understanding that God has given me, I recognize that what is beautiful is worthy of love. But what I don’t understand is that just because a woman is loved because of her beauty, she’s obliged to reciprocate this love. And furthermore, it could happen that the one who loves the beautiful woman is himself ugly, and since ugliness is worthy of being despised, it would be silly for him to say: ‘I love you because you’re beautiful; now you must love me, even though I’m ugly.’ But supposing each one is equally good-looking, it doesn’t necessarily mean that their yearnings will be the same, because not every kind of beauty inspires love—some are pleasing to the eye but don’t overcome the will. If every type of beauty caused love and overcame the will in the same way, everyone’s will would wander about confused and perplexed, not knowing which way to go, because—since there’s an infinite array of beautiful things—yearnings would be equally infinite. And according to what I’ve heard, true love cannot be divided, and must be voluntary and not forced. If that’s true, as I believe it is, why do you want to force me to yield my free will simply because you say that you love me? Tell me—what if heaven, which made me beautiful, had made me ugly instead? Would it have been right for me to complain because you didn’t love me? What’s more, consider this: I didn’t choose to be beautiful—heaven made me that way without my asking or choosing to be. So, just as a snake doesn’t deserve to be blamed for the venom given to it by nature—even though it uses the venom to kill—I don’t deserve to be blamed for being beautiful. Beauty in a virtuous woman is like a distant flame or a sharp sword—the one won’t burn and the other won’t cut anyone who doesn’t draw near. Honor and virtue are adornments of the soul, but without them the body shouldn’t seem beautiful, even though it may appear to be. So, if purity is one of the virtues that must adorn both body and soul to make them beautiful, why should the woman who’s loved for her beauty sacrifice her purity by yielding to the wishes of the man who, for his selfish pleasure only, seeks with all his might and wiles to cause her to lose it?
“I was born free, and in order to live free, I chose the solitude of the outdoors. The trees of these mountains are my company, the clear water of these streams are my mirrors. I communicate my thoughts and share my beauty with the trees and water. I’m the distant fire and the sword placed far away. Those whom I’ve caused to fall in love with me by letting them see me, I’ve enlightened with my words. And if desires are kept alive by hope, since I never gave any such hope to Grisóstomo—or to any other man—you could say that his obstinacy killed him rather than my cruelty. And if I’m reproached because you say that his desires were honorable, and for that reason I was obliged to yield to him, I say that in this same place where his grave is being dug and he revealed the worthiness of his intentions to me, I told him that mine were to live in perpetual solitude, and that only the earth would enjoy the fruits of my chastity and the spoils of my beauty. And, if after having been set right, he hoped against hope, and tried to sail against the wind, it’s no surprise that he drowned in the middle of the sea of his recklessness. If I’d encouraged him, I would have been false; if I’d gratified him, it would have been against my better instinct and judgment. He persisted though he was turned down; he despaired without being despised. Consider now whether I’m to blame for his grief! Let the man I deceived complain, let him despair whose promised hopes were not fulfilled, let him be filled with hope whom I beckon, let him brag whom I’ve welcomed. But let no one call me cruel and murderous to whom I’ve promised nothing, upon whom I’ve practiced no deception, whom I’ve neither beckoned nor welcomed.
“Heaven has not yet ordained that I should love by fate and it’s vain to think that I shall love by choice. Let this general warning be given to each one of those who try to court me for his own advantage—let it be understood from now on that if anyone dies for me, it won’t be because of jealousy or rejection, since she who loves no one cannot make anyone jealous. Discouragement must not be taken for disdain. Let the man who calls me a beast and a basilisk leave me alone as he would something harmful and bad; let the man who calls me ungrateful not serve me; let him who calls me unfeeling shun me; he who calls me cruel, let him not follow me—for this beast, this basilisk, this ingrate, this cruel and unfeeling woman will not seek, serve, know, or follow them in any way. If Grisóstomo was killed by his impatience and bold desire, why should you blame my virtuous behavior and modesty? If I preserve my purity in the company of trees, why should a man want me to lose it in the company of men? I, as you know, am independently wealthy, and I don’t covet anyone else’s fortune. I’m free and I take no pleasure in submitting to anyone. I neither love nor hate anyone. I don’t deceive this one nor court that one. I don’t dally with one nor play with another. Virtuous conversation with the country girls of these villages and the care of my goats entertain me. My desires are bounded by these mountains, and if they ever stray, it’s only to contemplate the beauty of the heavens, the steps by which the soul is shown the way to its first dwelling place.”
Having said this, without waiting to hear any response, she turned on her heels and went into the densest part of the forest nearby, leaving everyone there astonished, as much by her mental acuity as by her beauty. Some of those who were wounded by the mighty arrow from the rays of her eyes looked as if they wanted to follow her, without heeding the very clear admonition they’d heard.
When don Quixote saw this, it seemed to him that here was a good place to use his chivalry to rescue needy damsels, so he put his hand on the hilt of his sword and in a loud and clear voice said: “Let no one whatsoever dare to pursue the beautiful Marcela, under the penalty of incurring my furious wrath. She’s shown with clear words and solid reasons that she has had little or no blame in the death of Grisóstomo, and how distant she is from yielding to the desires of any of her suitors. Far from being pursued, she should be honored and revered by all good people in the world, since she shows that she’s the only person who lives by such virtuous intentions.”
Either because of don Quixote’s threats or because Ambrosio told everyone to finish what their good friend had asked, none of the shepherds stirred or left the place until the grave was dug, the papers burned, and Grisóstomo’s body was interred—not without many tears on the part of the onlookers. They closed the grave with a large stone until a formal tombstone could be made, which Ambrosio planned to have carved and would say:
They then scattered flowers and boughs on the grave, conveyed their sympathy to his friend Ambrosio, and bade him farewell. Vivaldo and his companion did the same, and don Quixote took leave of his hosts and the travelers, who begged him to go with them to Seville—it being a wonderful place to find adventures, since on every street and around every corner one can find more than in any other place.
OF THE INGENIOUS
Hidalgo Don Quixote
of La Mancha.