"In the king's name!" exclaimed Sancho, "what have squires got to do with the adventures of their masters? Are they to have the fame of such as they go through, and we the labour? Body o' me! if the historians would only say, 'Such and such a knight finished such and such an adventure, but with the help of so and so, his squire, without which it would have been impossible for him to accomplish it;' but they write curtly, "Don Paralipomenon of the Three Stars accomplished the adventure of the six monsters;' without mentioning such a person as his squire, who was there all the time, just as if there was no such being. Once more, sirs, I say my master may go alone, and much good may it do him; and I'll stay here in the company of my lady the duchess; and maybe when he comes back, he will find the lady Dulcinea's affair ever so much advanced; for I mean in leisure hours, and at idle moments, to give myself a spell of whipping without so much as a hair to cover me."
"For all that you must go if it be necessary, my good Sancho," said the duchess, "for they are worthy folk who ask you; and the faces of these ladies must not remain overgrown in this way because of your idle fears; that would be a hard case indeed."
"In the king's name, once more!" said Sancho; "If this charitable work were to be done for the sake of damsels in confinement or charity-girls, a man might expose himself to some hardships; but to bear it for the sake of stripping beards off duennas! Devil take it! I'd sooner see them all bearded, from the highest to the lowest, and from the most prudish to the most affected."
"You are very hard on duennas, Sancho my friend," said the duchess; "you incline very much to the opinion of the Toledo apothecary. But indeed you are wrong; there are duennas in my house that may serve as patterns of duennas; and here is my Dona Rodriguez, who will not allow me to say otherwise."
"Your excellence may say it if you like," said the Rodriguez; "for God knows the truth of everything; and whether we duennas are good or bad, bearded or smooth, we are our mothers' daughters like other women; and as God sent us into the world, he knows why he did, and on his mercy I rely, and not on anybody's beard."
"Well, Senora Rodriguez, Senora Trifaldi, and present company," said Don Quixote, "I trust in Heaven that it will look with kindly eyes upon your troubles, for Sancho will do as I bid him. Only let Clavileno come and let me find myself face to face with Malambruno, and I am certain no razor will shave you more easily than my sword shall shave Malambruno's head off his shoulders; for 'God bears with the wicked, but not for ever."
"Ah!" exclaimed the Distressed One at this, "may all the stars of the celestial regions look down upon your greatness with benign eyes, valiant knight, and shed every prosperity and valour upon your heart, that it may be the shield and safeguard of the abused and downtrodden race of duennas, detested by apothecaries, sneered at by squires, and made game of by pages. Ill betide the jade that in the flower of her youth would not sooner become a nun than a duenna! Unfortunate beings that we are, we duennas! Though we may be descended in the direct male line from Hector of Troy himself, our mistresses never fail to address us as 'you' if they think it makes queens of them. O giant Malambruno, though thou art an enchanter, thou art true to thy promises. Send us now the peerless Clavileno, that our misfortune may be brought to an end; for if the hot weather sets in and these beards of ours are still there, alas for our lot!"
The Trifaldi said this in such a pathetic way that she drew tears from the eyes of all and even Sancho's filled up; and he resolved in his heart to accompany his master to the uttermost ends of the earth, if so be the removal of the wool from those venerable countenances depended upon it.