Miqeul de Cervantes >> Don Quixote (page 103)

At this point they saw approaching the spot where they stood a manon foot, proceeding at a rapid pace, and beating a mule loaded withlances and halberds. When he came up to them, he saluted them andpassed on without stopping. Don Quixote called to him, "Stay, goodfellow; you seem to be making more haste than suits that mule."

"I cannot stop, senor," answered the man; "for the arms you see Icarry here are to be used tomorrow, so I must not delay; God be withyou. But if you want to know what I am carrying them for, I mean tolodge to-night at the inn that is beyond the hermitage, and if yoube going the same road you will find me there, and I will tell yousome curious things; once more God be with you;" and he urged on hismule at such a pace that Don Quixote had no time to ask him what thesecurious things were that he meant to tell them; and as he was somewhatinquisitive, and always tortured by his anxiety to learn somethingnew, he decided to set out at once, and go and pass the night at theinn instead of stopping at the hermitage, where the cousin wouldhave had them halt. Accordingly they mounted and all three took thedirect road for the inn, which they reached a little before nightfall.On the road the cousin proposed they should go up to the hermitageto drink a sup. The instant Sancho heard this he steered his Dappletowards it, and Don Quixote and the cousin did the same; but itseems Sancho's bad luck so ordered it that the hermit was not at home,for so a sub-hermit they found in the hermitage told them. They calledfor some of the best. She replied that her master had none, but thatif they liked cheap water she would give it with great pleasure.

"If I found any in water," said Sancho, "there are wells along theroad where I could have had enough of it. Ah, Camacho's wedding, andplentiful house of Don Diego, how often do I miss you!"

Leaving the hermitage, they pushed on towards the inn, and alittle farther they came upon a youth who was pacing along in front ofthem at no great speed, so that they overtook him. He carried asword over his shoulder, and slung on it a budget or bundle of hisclothes apparently, probably his breeches or pantaloons, and his cloakand a shirt or two; for he had on a short jacket of velvet with agloss like satin on it in places, and had his shirt out; his stockingswere of silk, and his shoes square-toed as they wear them at court.His age might have been eighteen or nineteen; he was of a merrycountenance, and to all appearance of an active habit, and he wentalong singing seguidillas to beguile the wearisomeness of the road. Asthey came up with him he was just finishing one, which the cousingot by heart and they say ran thus-

I'm off to the warsFor the want of pence,Oh, had I but moneyI'd show more sense.

The first to address him was Don Quixote, who said, "You travel veryairily, sir gallant; whither bound, may we ask, if it is your pleasureto tell us?"

To which the youth replied, "The heat and my poverty are thereason of my travelling so airily, and it is to the wars that I ambound."

"How poverty?" asked Don Quixote; "the heat one can understand."

"Senor," replied the youth, "in this bundle I carry velvetpantaloons to match this jacket; if I wear them out on the road, Ishall not be able to make a decent appearance in them in the city, andI have not the wherewithal to buy others; and so for this reason, aswell as to keep myself cool, I am making my way in this fashion toovertake some companies of infantry that are not twelve leagues off,in which I shall enlist, and there will be no want of baggage trainsto travel with after that to the place of embarkation, which theysay will be Carthagena; I would rather have the King for a master, andserve him in the wars, than serve a court pauper."

"And did you get any bounty, now?" asked the cousin.

"If I had been in the service of some grandee of Spain orpersonage of distinction," replied the youth, "I should have been safeto get it; for that is the advantage of serving good masters, that outof the servants' hall men come to be ancients or captains, or get agood pension. But I, to my misfortune, always served place-hunters andadventurers, whose keep and wages were so miserable and scanty thathalf went in paying for the starching of one's collars; it would bea miracle indeed if a page volunteer ever got anything like areasonable bounty."

"And tell me, for heaven's sake," asked Don Quixote, "is itpossible, my friend, that all the time you served you never got anylivery?"

"They gave me two," replied the page; "but just as when one quitsa religious community before making profession, they strip him ofthe dress of the order and give him back his own clothes, so did mymasters return me mine; for as soon as the business on which they cameto court was finished, they went home and took back the liveriesthey had given merely for show."

"What spilorceria!- as an Italian would say," said Don Quixote; "butfor all that, consider yourself happy in having left court with asworthy an object as you have, for there is nothing on earth morehonourable or profitable than serving, first of all God, and thenone's king and natural lord, particularly in the profession of arms,by which, if not more wealth, at least more honour is to be won thanby letters, as I have said many a time; for though letters may havefounded more great houses than arms, still those founded by armshave I know not what superiority over those founded by letters, anda certain splendour belonging to them that distinguishes them aboveall. And bear in mind what I am now about to say to you, for it willbe of great use and comfort to you in time of trouble; it is, not tolet your mind dwell on the adverse chances that may befall you; forthe worst of all is death, and if it be a good death, the best ofall is to die. They asked Julius Caesar, the valiant Roman emperor,what was the best death. He answered, that which is unexpected,which comes suddenly and unforeseen; and though he answered like apagan, and one without the knowledge of the true God, yet, as far assparing our feelings is concerned, he was right; for suppose you arekilled in the first engagement or skirmish, whether by a cannon ballor blown up by mine, what matters it? It is only dying, and all isover; and according to Terence, a soldier shows better dead in battle,than alive and safe in flight; and the good soldier wins fame inproportion as he is obedient to his captains and those in command overhim. And remember, my son, that it is better for the soldier tosmell of gunpowder than of civet, and that if old age should come uponyou in this honourable calling, though you may be covered withwounds and crippled and lame, it will not come upon you withouthonour, and that such as poverty cannot lessen; especially now thatprovisions are being made for supporting and relieving old anddisabled soldiers; for it is not right to deal with them after thefashion of those who set free and get rid of their black slaves whenthey are old and useless, and, turning them out of their housesunder the pretence of making them free, make them slaves to hunger,from which they cannot expect to be released except by death. Butfor the present I won't say more than get ye up behind me on myhorse as far as the inn, and sup with me there, and to-morrow youshall pursue your journey, and God give you as good speed as yourintentions deserve."

The page did not accept the invitation to mount, though he didthat to supper at the inn; and here they say Sancho said to himself,"God be with you for a master; is it possible that a man who can saythings so many and so good as he has said just now, can say that hesaw the impossible absurdities he reports about the cave ofMontesinos? Well, well, we shall see."

And now, just as night was falling, they reached the inn, and it wasnot without satisfaction that Sancho perceived his master took itfor a real inn, and not for a castle as usual. The instant theyentered Don Quixote asked the landlord after the man with the lancesand halberds, and was told that he was in the stable seeing to hismule; which was what Sancho and the cousin proceeded to do for theirbeasts, giving the best manger and the best place in the stable toRocinante.



Don Quixote's bread would not bake, as the common saying is, untilhe had heard and learned the curious things promised by the man whocarried the arms. He went to seek him where the innkeeper said bewas and having found him, bade him say now at any rate what he hadto say in answer to the question he had asked him on the road. "Thetale of my wonders must be taken more leisurely and not standing,"said the man; "let me finish foddering my beast, good sir; and thenI'll tell you things that will astonish you."

"Don't wait for that," said Don Quixote; "I'll help you ineverything," and so he did, sifting the barley for him and cleaningout the manger; a degree of humility which made the other feel boundto tell him with a good grace what he had asked; so seating himself ona bench, with Don Quixote beside him, and the cousin, the page, SanchoPanza, and the landlord, for a senate and an audience, he began hisstory in this way:

"You must know that in a village four leagues and a half from thisinn, it so happened that one of the regidors, by the tricks androguery of a servant girl of his (it's too long a tale to tell),lost an ass; and though he did all he possibly could to find it, itwas all to no purpose. A fortnight might have gone by, so the storygoes, since the ass had been missing, when, as the regidor who hadlost it was standing in the plaza, another regidor of the same townsaid to him, 'Pay me for good news, gossip; your ass has turned up.''That I will, and well, gossip,' said the other; 'but tell us, wherehas he turned up?' 'In the forest,' said the finder; 'I saw him thismorning without pack-saddle or harness of any sort, and so lean thatit went to one's heart to see him. I tried to drive him before meand bring him to you, but he is already so wild and shy that when Iwent near him he made off into the thickest part of the forest. If youhave a mind that we two should go back and look for him, let me put upthis she-ass at my house and I'll be back at once.' 'You will be doingme a great kindness,' said the owner of the ass, 'and I'll try topay it back in the same coin.' It is with all these circumstances, andin the very same way I am telling it now, that those who know allabout the matter tell the story. Well then, the two regidors set offon foot, arm in arm, for the forest, and coming to the place wherethey hoped to find the ass they could not find him, nor was he to beseen anywhere about, search as they might. Seeing, then, that therewas no sign of him, the regidor who had seen him said to the other,'Look here, gossip; a plan has occurred to me, by which, beyond adoubt, we shall manage to discover the animal, even if he is stowedaway in the bowels of the earth, not to say the forest. Here it is.I can bray to perfection, and if you can ever so little, the thing'sas good as done.' 'Ever so little did you say, gossip?' said theother; 'by God, I'll not give in to anybody, not even to the assesthemselves.' 'We'll soon see,' said the second regidor, 'for my planis that you should go one side of the forest, and I the other, so asto go all round about it; and every now and then you will bray and Iwill bray; and it cannot be but that the ass will hear us, andanswer us if he is in the forest.' To which the owner of the assreplied, 'It's an excellent plan, I declare, gossip, and worthy ofyour great genius;' and the two separating as agreed, it so fell outthat they brayed almost at the same moment, and each, deceived bythe braying of the other, ran to look, fancying the ass had turnedup at last. When they came in sight of one another, said the loser,'Is it possible, gossip, that it was not my ass that brayed?' 'No,it was I,' said the other. 'Well then, I can tell you, gossip,' saidthe ass's owner, 'that between you and an ass there is not an atomof difference as far as braying goes, for I never in all my life sawor heard anything more natural.' 'Those praises and compliments belongto you more justly than to me, gossip,' said the inventor of the plan;'for, by the God that made me, you might give a couple of brays oddsto the best and most finished brayer in the world; the tone you havegot is deep, your voice is well kept up as to time and pitch, and yourfinishing notes come thick and fast; in fact, I own myself beaten, andyield the palm to you, and give in to you in this rareaccomplishment.' 'Well then,' said the owner, 'I'll set a higher valueon myself for the future, and consider that I know something, as Ihave an excellence of some sort; for though I always thought Ibrayed well, I never supposed I came up to the pitch of perfection yousay.' 'And I say too,' said the second, 'that there are rare giftsgoing to loss in the world, and that they are ill bestowed uponthose who don't know how to make use of them.' 'Ours,' said theowner of the ass, 'unless it is in cases like this we have now inhand, cannot be of any service to us, and even in this God grantthey may be of some use.' So saying they separated, and took totheir braying once more, but every instant they were deceiving oneanother, and coming to meet one another again, until they arrangedby way of countersign, so as to know that it was they and not the ass,to give two brays, one after the other. In this way, doubling thebrays at every step, they made the complete circuit of the forest, butthe lost ass never gave them an answer or even the sign of one. Howcould the poor ill-starred brute have answered, when, in thethickest part of the forest, they found him devoured by wolves? Assoon as he saw him his owner said, 'I was wondering he did not answer,for if he wasn't dead he'd have brayed when he heard us, or he'dhave been no ass; but for the sake of having heard you bray to suchperfection, gossip, I count the trouble I have taken to look for himwell bestowed, even though I have found him dead.' 'It's in a goodhand, gossip,' said the other; 'if the abbot sings well, the acolyteis not much behind him.' So they returned disconsolate and hoarse totheir village, where they told their friends, neighbours, andacquaintances what had befallen them in their search for the ass, eachcrying up the other's perfection in braying. The whole story came tobe known and spread abroad through the villages of theneighbourhood; and the devil, who never sleeps, with his love forsowing dissensions and scattering discord everywhere, blowing mischiefabout and making quarrels out of nothing, contrived to make the peopleof the other towns fall to braying whenever they saw anyone from ourvillage, as if to throw the braying of our regidors in our teeth. Thenthe boys took to it, which was the same thing for it as getting intothe hands and mouths of all the devils of hell; and braying spreadfrom one town to another in such a way that the men of the brayingtown are as easy to be known as blacks are to be known from whites,and the unlucky joke has gone so far that several times the scoffedhave come out in arms and in a body to do battle with the scoffers,and neither king nor rook, fear nor shame, can mend matters. To-morrowor the day after, I believe, the men of my town, that is, of thebraying town, are going to take the field against another villagetwo leagues away from ours, one of those that persecute us most; andthat we may turn out well prepared I have bought these lances andhalberds you have seen. These are the curious things I told you Ihad to tell, and if you don't think them so, I have got no others;"and with this the worthy fellow brought his story to a close.

Title: Don Quixote
Author: Miqeul de Cervantes
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