Of what happened to Don Rodrigo Melendez de Valdez

May 11, 2017

Count Lucanor conversed one day with Patronio his counsellor in the following manner: —

“Patronio,” said he, “you know that one of my neighbors and I have had contentions, that he is a man of great influence and much honored. It now happens that we are both disposed to possess ourselves of a certain town, and it is positive that whoever arrives there first will possess himself of it, and thus it will be entirely lost to the other. You know, also, that all my servants and dependents are ready to march, and I have every reason to believe that, with God’s help, if I proceed at once, I shall succeed with great honor and advantage. But there is this impediment; not being in good health, I shall not be able to avail myself of this opportunity. Now I regret much the loss of this town; but I acknowledge to you that to lose it in this manner provokes me still more, as I lose also the honor which the possession of it would give. Having great confidence in your understanding, I pray you tell me what is best to be done.”

“My lord,’ said Patronio, “I can understand your anxiety in this matter; and, in order that you may know how to act always for the best in cases like this, I should be much pleased to relate to you what happened to Don Rodrigo Melendez de Valdez.”

The Count desired him to relate what that was.

“Count Lucanor,” said Patronio, “Don Rodrigo Melendez de Valdez was a knight much honored in the kingdom of Leon, and was accustomed, whenever any misfortune happened to him, to exclaim, ‘God be praised! for, since he has so willed it, it is for the best.’ This Don Rodrigo was counsellor to, and a great favorite with, the King of Leon. He had many enemies, who, through jealousy, reported so many falsehoods, and induced the king to think so ill of him as to order him to be put to death.

“Now, Don Rodrigo, being at his own residence, he received the king’s command to attend him. Meanwhile those who were employed to assassinate him waited quietly about half a league from his house. Don Rodrigo intended going on horseback to the king, but coming down stairs, he fell and broke his leg. When his attendants who were to have accompanied him saw this accident, they were much grieved, but commenced saying, half jocosely, to Don Rodrigo, ‘You know you always say, “that which God permits is ever for the best:” now, do you think this is for the best?’

“He replied, that they might be certain, however much this accident was to be deplored, yet he would say to them, since it was by the will of God, if was surely for the best, and all they might say could never change his opinions.

“Now those who were waiting to kill Don Rodrigo by the king’s command, when they found he did not come, and knew not what had happened to him, returned to the palace to explain why they could not fulfill his orders.

“Don Rodrigo was a long time confined to his house, and unable to mount his horse. During this delay the king ascertained how Don Rodrigo had been calumniated, and, having ordered the slanderers to be seized, went himself to the house of Don Rodrigo Melendez de Valdez, and related to him the slanders that had been propagated against him, and for the fault that he the king, had committed, in ordering him to be put to death, entreated pardon; and, in consideration thereof, bestowed on him new honors and riches. And justice was satisfied by the speedy punishment of those who had reported such falsehoods. In this way God delivered Don Rodrigo, who was not guilty. Hence was his customary affirmation proved true, — that, ‘Whatever God permitted to happen was always for the best.’

“And you, Count Lucanor, should not complain of this hindrance to the fulfillment of your wishes. Be certain, in your heart, that ‘whatever God wills is for the best;’ an, if you will but trust in Him, He will cause all things to work for your good.

“But you ought to understand that these things which happen are of two kinds. The one is when a misfortune happens to a man which admits of no relief: the other is when a misfortune is remediable. Now, when an evil can be cured, it is a man’s duty to exert all his energies to obtain the necessary relief, and not remain inactive, saying, ‘it is chance,’ or ‘it is the will of God,’ for this would be to tempt Providence. But, since man is endowed with understanding and reason, it is his duty to endeavor to overcome the misfortunes which may befall him, when they will admit of alleviation. But, in those cases where there is no remedy, then man must patiently submit, since it is really the will of God, which is always for the best.

“And as this which has happened to you is clearly one of those afflictions sent by God, and admits of no remedy; and as what God permits is for the best, rest therefore assured that God will so direct circumstances that the result will be as you desire.”

And the Count held that Patronio had spoken wisely, and that it was good advice; and, acting accordingly, he found good results.

And Don Juan, considering this a good example, caused it to be written in this book, and composed the lines, which say thus: —

Murmur not at God’s dealings; it may be
He seeks thy good, in ways thou canst not see.

NOTE

Don Manuel, in this tale, while calling upon us to exercise implicit faith and resignation to the will of Providence, as a Christian duty, proves that his mind was not prejudiced by the then prevailing Arab doctrine of fatalism and inert blind submission to what was supposed to be dispensations of Providence, but urges equally the duty of using our intellectual powers that we may be enabled to discriminate between what really is the will of God, and what arises from our own indiscretion, and what does or does not admit of remedy.

 

Prince Don Juan Manuel, Count Lucanor: of the Fifty Pleasant Stories of Patronio, trans. James York (London: Gibbings & Company, Limited, 1899).

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 576

 

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