"A vision it must have been, no doubt," said Don Quixote, "for there is no other I in the world; this history has been going about here for some time from hand to hand, but it does not stay long in any, for everybody gives it a taste of his foot. I am not disturbed by hearing that I am wandering in a fantastic shape in the darkness of the pit or in the daylight above, for I am not the one that history treats of. If it should be good, faithful, and true, it will have ages of life; but if it should be bad, from its birth to its burial will not be a very long journey."
Altisidora was about to proceed with her complaint against Don Quixote, when he said to her, "I have several times told you, senora that it grieves me you should have set your affections upon me, as from mine they can only receive gratitude, but no return. I was born to belong to Dulcinea del Toboso, and the fates, if there are any, dedicated me to her; and to suppose that any other beauty can take the place she occupies in my heart is to suppose an impossibility. This frank declaration should suffice to make you retire within the bounds of your modesty, for no one can bind himself to do impossibilities."
Hearing this, Altisidora, with a show of anger and agitation, exclaimed, "God's life! Don Stockfish, soul of a mortar, stone of a date, more obstinate and obdurate than a clown asked a favour when he has his mind made up, if I fall upon you I'll tear your eyes out! Do you fancy, Don Vanquished, Don Cudgelled, that I died for your sake? All that you have seen to-night has been make-believe; I'm not the woman to let the black of my nail suffer for such a camel, much less die!"
"That I can well believe," said Sancho; "for all that about lovers pining to death is absurd; they may talk of it, but as for doing it-Judas may believe that!"
While they were talking, the musician, singer, and poet, who had sung the two stanzas given above came in, and making a profound obeisance to Don Quixote said, "Will your worship, sir knight, reckon and retain me in the number of your most faithful servants, for I have long been a great admirer of yours, as well because of your fame as because of your achievements?" "Will your worship tell me who you are," replied Don Quixote, "so that my courtesy may be answerable to your deserts?" The young man replied that he was the musician and songster of the night before. "Of a truth," said Don Quixote, "your worship has a most excellent voice; but what you sang did not seem to me very much to the purpose; for what have Garcilasso's stanzas to do with the death of this lady?"
"Don't be surprised at that," returned the musician; "for with the callow poets of our day the way is for every one to write as he pleases and pilfer where he chooses, whether it be germane to the matter or not, and now-a-days there is no piece of silliness they can sing or write that is not set down to poetic licence."
Don Quixote was about to reply, but was prevented by the duke and duchess, who came in to see him, and with them there followed a long and delightful conversation, in the course of which Sancho said so many droll and saucy things that he left the duke and duchess wondering not only at his simplicity but at his sharpness. Don Quixote begged their permission to take his departure that same day, inasmuch as for a vanquished knight like himself it was fitter he should live in a pig-sty than in a royal palace. They gave it very readily, and the duchess asked him if Altisidora was in his good graces.
He replied, "Senora, let me tell your ladyship that this damsel's ailment comes entirely of idleness, and the cure for it is honest and constant employment. She herself has told me that lace is worn in hell; and as she must know how to make it, let it never be out of her hands; for when she is occupied in shifting the bobbins to and fro, the image or images of what she loves will not shift to and fro in her thoughts; this is the truth, this is my opinion, and this is my advice."
"And mine," added Sancho; "for I never in all my life saw a lace-maker that died for love; when damsels are at work their minds are more set on finishing their tasks than on thinking of their loves. I speak from my own experience; for when I'm digging I never think of my old woman; I mean my Teresa Panza, whom I love better than my own eyelids." "You say well, Sancho," said the duchess, "and I will take care that my Altisidora employs herself henceforward in needlework of some sort; for she is extremely expert at it." "There is no occasion to have recourse to that remedy, senora," said Altisidora; "for the mere thought of the cruelty with which this vagabond villain has treated me will suffice to blot him out of my memory without any other device; with your highness's leave I will retire, not to have before my eyes, I won't say his rueful countenance, but his abominable, ugly looks." "That reminds me of the common saying, that 'he that rails is ready to forgive,'" said the duke.
Altisidora then, pretending to wipe away her tears with a handkerchief, made an obeisance to her master and mistress and quitted the room.
"Ill luck betide thee, poor damsel," said Sancho, "ill luck betide thee! Thou hast fallen in with a soul as dry as a rush and a heart as hard as oak; had it been me, i'faith 'another cock would have crowed to thee.'"
So the conversation came to an end, and Don Quixote dressed himself and dined with the duke and duchess, and set out the same evening.