Capítulo XIX
Descripción de una particular pelea

—Permitidme que os pregunte de qué manera pasasteis diez meses sin comer.

—¡Ah! –le respondió Belmur–. ¿Qué otros alimentos podía yo tener que sollozos y lágrimas?

El barón, Glanville y su hermana soltaron la carcajada a un tiempo. Arabela lo extrañó y conservó su seriedad.

—Me parece ridículo –dijo– que supongáis que el príncipe Veridomer vivió diez meses sin alimentarse. Estas menudencias se desprecian en las historias y es de fácil averiguación el modo con que un solitario puede vivir en el desierto.

—Pero, sobrina mía, los alimentos de que ha hablado Belmur me parecen de poquísima substancia.

—Se dice así, pero sin duda se alimentó con frutas silvestres, con yerbas, con raíces y con otras mil cosas que debe producir una selva. Orontes se halló en un caso igual y por cierto que no se murió de hambre.

Conoció el barón que Arabela se formalizaba, no hizo más observaciones, receloso de ofenderla y Belmur, que se hallaba embarazado en la explicación de su hipérbole, sacó partido del medio que le suministró Arabela. Continuó, pues, así su narración: p. 167

—Tales atractivos hallaba yo en la soledad que todavía permanecería en ella, a no haber sido por la aventura que voy a contaros. Un día, que me desvié de la gruta más de lo acostumbrado, oí voces dolorosas que me parecieron de mujer y de allí a algunos momentos vi a un hombre a caballo con una dama a la grupa, la cual hacía continuados esfuerzos para desembarazarse de él. «¡Detente, malvado!», le grité, «¡o prepárate a haberlas conmigo!». Pero él, sin responderme, metió piernas a su caballo y desapareció. Por fortuna estaba el mío junto a mí; armeme con mis armas, monté en él y alcancé muy luego al robador. «Ignoro», me dijo este, «qué motivo te impulsa a contrarrestar mis acciones, pero a bien que, antes de mucho, te arrepentirás de tu temeridad». Vínose a mí entonces y me dio un golpe tremendo que, por fortuna, pude parar con mi escudo. Echeme sobre él y le herí en varias partes: uno de mis golpes le destrozó el morrión y ya iba a degollarlo, cuando el cobarde me pidió la vida. «Recoge tu espada», le dije, «y vive, pues eres tan bajo que lo deseas, después de vencido, pero jura sobre mi espada que no intentarás en adelante cosa alguna contra esta dama». Mientras así le hablaba yo, cayó del caballo; corrí a socorrerlo, pero ya había expirado. Aparteme de aquel triste objeto para consolar a la dama, que se arrodilló delante de mí, diciéndome, con voz muy expresiva:«Caballero generoso, recibid, en esta postura humilde, las muestras de mi agradecimiento, porque os soy deudora de la conservación de mi honor, bien mucho más precioso que la vida». «Suplícoos, señora», la repuse, «que no estéis más tiempo en una postura que debiera ser la mía: no he hecho otra cosa que cumplir con los movimientos de mi corazón y me hallo gozocísimo de haber sido útil a una mujer tan hermosa». Y, a efecto de poneros en el caso de juzgar de la impresión que hizo en mí aquella dama, procuraré haceros de ella un retrato parecido.

Chapter VIII
A single combat fought with prodigious valour, and described with amazing accuracy.

“Give me leave, sir,” said Sir Charles, “to ask if you ate in all this time.”

“Alas! Sir,” replied Sir George, “sighs and tears were all my sustenance.”

Sir Charles, Mr. Glanville and Miss, laughing at this answer, Arabella seemed greatly confused:

“It is not to be imagined,” said she, “that Sir George, or, to say better, Prince Veridomer, lived ten months without eating anything to support nature; but such trifling circumstances are always left out in the relations of histories; and truly an audience must be very dull and unapprehensive* that cannot conceive, without being told, that a man must necessarily eat in the space of ten months.”

“But the food Sir George lived on,” replied the baronet, “was very unsubstantial, and would not afford him much nourishment.”

[99] “I suppose,” resumed Arabella, “he lived much upon such provisions as the forest afforded him, such as wild fruits, herbs, bitter salads and the like, which, considering the melancholy that possessed him, would appear a voluptuous repast; and which the unfortunate Orontes, when he was in the same situation, thought infinitely too good for him.”

Sir Charles, finding Arabella took no notice of the historian’s hyperbole of living upon his sighs and tears, passed it over, for fear of offending her; and Sir George, who had been in some anxiety how to bring himself off, when he perceived Arabella was reasonable enough to suppose he must have eat* during his abode* in the forest, went on with his relation in this manner.

“I lived, as I before observed to you, madam, in this cave for ten months; and truly I was so reconciled to that solitary way of life, and found so much sweetness in it that I believe I should have remained there till this day, but for the adventure which I am going to recount.p. 224

“It being my custom to walk out every evening in the forest, returning to my cave, something later than usual, I heard the cries of a woman at some distance who seemed to be in distress. I stopped to listen from what side those cries proceeded; and, perceiving they seemed to approach nearer to me, I took down my armour from the tree where I had hung it; and hastily arming myself, shaped my course towards the place from whence those [100] complaints seemed to come, resolving to assist that unknown person with all the strength that was left me.

“Having gone some paces, I spied through the branches of the trees a man on horseback, with a lady, who struggled to get loose, and at times calling aloud for succour.

“This sight inflaming me with rage against that impious ravisher, I flew towards him. And when I came within hearing: ‘Hold, wretch!’ cried I. ‘And cease to offer violence to that lady whom thou bearest away by force; or prepare to defend thyself against one who will die, before he will suffer thee to prosecute thy unjust designs.’

“The man, without answering me, clapped spurs to his horse; and it would have been impossible to have overtaken him, had not my own horse, which had never quitted the forest, appeared in my view. I quickly mounted him, and followed the track the ravisher had taken, with such speed that I came up with him in a moment.

“‘Caitiff!’ said I, ‘Release the lady, and defend thyself.’ These words, which I accompanied with a thundering blow upon his headpiece, obliged him to set down the lady, who implored heaven, with the utmost ardour, to grant me the victory; and, recoiling back a few paces, to take a view of me: ‘I know not,’ said he, ‘for what reason thou settest thyself to oppose my designs, but I well know that thou shalt dearly repent of thy temerity.’

“Saying this, he advanced furiously towards [101] me, and aimed so heavy a blow at my head that, had I not received it on my shield, I might haply have no longer been in a condition to defend the distressed lady. But having, with the greatest dexterity imaginable, avoided this blow, I made at him with so much fierceness, and directed my aims so well that in a few moments I wounded him in several places, and his arms were all dyed with his blood.p. 225

“This good success redoubled my vigour; and having, by a lucky stroke with my sword, cut the strings of his headpiece, it fell off. And his head being bare, I was going to let fall a dreadful blow upon it, which doubtless would have shivered it in a thousand pieces, when he cried out for quarter, and, letting fall his sword, by that action assured me my victory was entire.

“‘Live, wretch,’ cried I, ‘since thou art base enough to value life after being vanquished, but swear upon my sword that thou wilt never more attempt the liberty of that lady.’

“While I was speaking, I perceived he was no longer able to sit his horse. But, staggering a moment, he fell off, and lay extended without motion upon the ground. Touched with compassion at this sight, I alighted, and, supposing him to be in a swoon, was preparing to give him some assistance; but, upon my nearer approach, I found he was quite dead.

“Leaving therefore this mournful object, I turned about, with an intention to go and offer the distressed lady my further help, but I perceived her already at my feet.

[102] “‘Valiant knight,’ said she, with a tone of voice so bewitching that all my faculties were suspended, as by enchantment, ‘suffer me, on my knees, to thank you for the deliverance you have procured me from that base man, since to your admirable valour I owe not only the preservation of my life, but, what is infinitely dearer to me, my honour.’

“The astonishment wherewith I beheld the miraculous beauty that appeared before me kept me a moment in such an attentive gaze that I forgot she was at my feet; recollecting myself, however, with some confusion at my neglect: ‘Oh! Rise, madam,’ cried I, helping her up with infinite respect, ‘and debase not such perfection to a posture in which all the monarchs on the earth might glory to appear before it.’

“That you may the better conceive the alteration which the sight of this fair unknown produced in my soul, I will endeavour to give you a description of her beauty, which was altogether miraculous.”

iunapprehensive] very rare. Unintelligent.

iieat] arch. Eaten.

iiiabode] A temporary stay.