Miqeul de Cervantes >> Don Quixote (page 110)

"He is not to cut it short," said the duchess; "on the contrary, formy gratification, he is to tell it as he knows it, though he shouldnot finish it these six days; and if he took so many they would beto me the pleasantest I ever spent."

"Well then, sirs, I say," continued Sancho, "that this samegentleman, whom I know as well as I do my own hands, for it's not abowshot from my house to his, invited a poor but respectablelabourer-"

"Get on, brother," said the churchman; "at the rate you are goingyou will not stop with your story short of the next world."

"I'll stop less than half-way, please God," said Sancho; "and so Isay this labourer, coming to the house of the gentleman I spoke ofthat invited him- rest his soul, he is now dead; and more by tokenhe died the death of an angel, so they say; for I was not there, forjust at that time I had gone to reap at Tembleque-"

"As you live, my son," said the churchman, "make haste back fromTembleque, and finish your story without burying the gentleman, unlessyou want to make more funerals."

"Well then, it so happened," said Sancho, "that as the pair ofthem were going to sit down to table -and I think I can see them nowplainer than ever-"

Great was the enjoyment the duke and duchess derived from theirritation the worthy churchman showed at the long-winded, halting waySancho had of telling his story, while Don Quixote was chafing withrage and vexation.

"So, as I was saying," continued Sancho, "as the pair of them weregoing to sit down to table, as I said, the labourer insisted uponthe gentleman's taking the head of the table, and the gentlemaninsisted upon the labourer's taking it, as his orders should be obeyedin his house; but the labourer, who plumed himself on his politenessand good breeding, would not on any account, until the gentleman,out of patience, putting his hands on his shoulders, compelled himby force to sit down, saying, 'Sit down, you stupid lout, for whereverI sit will he the head to you; and that's the story, and, troth, Ithink it hasn't been brought in amiss here."

Don Quixote turned all colours, which, on his sunburnt face, mottledit till it looked like jasper. The duke and duchess suppressed theirlaughter so as not altogether to mortify Don Quixote, for they sawthrough Sancho's impertinence; and to change the conversation, andkeep Sancho from uttering more absurdities, the duchess asked DonQuixote what news he had of the lady Dulcinea, and if he had senther any presents of giants or miscreants lately, for he could notbut have vanquished a good many.

To which Don Quixote replied, "Senora, my misfortunes, though theyhad a beginning, will never have an end. I have vanquished giantsand I have sent her caitiffs and miscreants; but where are they tofind her if she is enchanted and turned into the most ill-favouredpeasant wench that can be imagined?"

"I don't know," said Sancho Panza; "to me she seems the fairestcreature in the world; at any rate, in nimbleness and jumping shewon't give in to a tumbler; by my faith, senora duchess, she leapsfrom the ground on to the back of an ass like a cat."

"Have you seen her enchanted, Sancho?" asked the duke.

"What, seen her!" said Sancho; "why, who the devil was it but myselfthat first thought of the enchantment business? She is as muchenchanted as my father."

The ecclesiastic, when he heard them talking of giants andcaitiffs and enchantments, began to suspect that this must be DonQuixote of La Mancha, whose story the duke was always reading; andhe had himself often reproved him for it, telling him it was foolishto read such fooleries; and becoming convinced that his suspicionwas correct, addressing the duke, he said very angrily to him, "Senor,your excellence will have to give account to God for what this goodman does. This Don Quixote, or Don Simpleton, or whatever his name is,cannot, I imagine, be such a blockhead as your excellence would havehim, holding out encouragement to him to go on with his vagaries andfollies." Then turning to address Don Quixote he said, "And you,num-skull, who put it into your head that you are a knight-errant, andvanquish giants and capture miscreants? Go your ways in a good hour,and in a good hour be it said to you. Go home and bring up yourchildren if you have any, and attend to your business, and give overgoing wandering about the world, gaping and making a laughing-stock ofyourself to all who know you and all who don't. Where, in heaven'sname, have you discovered that there are or ever wereknights-errant? Where are there giants in Spain or miscreants in LaMancha, or enchanted Dulcineas, or all the rest of the silly thingsthey tell about you?"

Don Quixote listened attentively to the reverend gentleman'swords, and as soon as he perceived he had done speaking, regardless ofthe presence of the duke and duchess, he sprang to his feet with angrylooks and an agitated countenance, and said -But the reply deservesa chapter to itself.



Don Quixote, then, having risen to his feet, trembling from headto foot like a man dosed with mercury, said in a hurried, agitatedvoice, "The place I am in, the presence in which I stand, and therespect I have and always have had for the profession to which yourworship belongs, hold and bind the hands of my just indignation; andas well for these reasons as because I know, as everyone knows, that agownsman's weapon is the same as a woman's, the tongue, I will withmine engage in equal combat with your worship, from whom one mighthave expected good advice instead of foul abuse. Pious, well-meantreproof requires a different demeanour and arguments of anothersort; at any rate, to have reproved me in public, and so roughly,exceeds the bounds of proper reproof, for that comes better withgentleness than with rudeness; and it is not seemly to call the sinnerroundly blockhead and booby, without knowing anything of the sinthat is reproved. Come, tell me, for which of the stupidities you haveobserved in me do you condemn and abuse me, and bid me go home andlook after my house and wife and children, without knowing whether Ihave any? Is nothing more needed than to get a footing, by hook orby crook, in other people's houses to rule over the masters (and that,perhaps, after having been brought up in all the straitness of someseminary, and without having ever seen more of the world than maylie within twenty or thirty leagues round), to fit one to lay down thelaw rashly for chivalry, and pass judgment on knights-errant? Is it,haply, an idle occupation, or is the time ill-spent that is spent inroaming the world in quest, not of its enjoyments, but of thosearduous toils whereby the good mount upwards to the abodes ofeverlasting life? If gentlemen, great lords, nobles, men of highbirth, were to rate me as a fool I should take it as an irreparableinsult; but I care not a farthing if clerks who have never enteredupon or trod the paths of chivalry should think me foolish. Knight Iam, and knight I will die, if such be the pleasure of the Most High.Some take the broad road of overweening ambition; others that ofmean and servile flattery; others that of deceitful hypocrisy, andsome that of true religion; but I, led by my star, follow the narrowpath of knight-errantry, and in pursuit of that calling I despisewealth, but not honour. I have redressed injuries, righted wrongs,punished insolences, vanquished giants, and crushed monsters; I amin love, for no other reason than that it is incumbent onknights-errant to be so; but though I am, I am no carnal-minded lover,but one of the chaste, platonic sort. My intentions are alwaysdirected to worthy ends, to do good to all and evil to none; and if hewho means this, does this, and makes this his practice deserves tobe called a fool, it is for your highnesses to say, O most excellentduke and duchess."

"Good, by God!" cried Sancho; "say no more in your own defence,master mine, for there's nothing more in the world to be said,thought, or insisted on; and besides, when this gentleman denies, ashe has, that there are or ever have been any knights-errant in theworld, is it any wonder if he knows nothing of what he has beentalking about?"

"Perhaps, brother," said the ecclesiastic, "you are that SanchoPanza that is mentioned, to whom your master has promised an island?"

"Yes, I am," said Sancho, "and what's more, I am one who deserves itas much as anyone; I am one of the sort- 'Attach thyself to thegood, and thou wilt be one of them,' and of those, 'Not with whom thouart bred, but with whom thou art fed,' and of those, 'Who leansagainst a good tree, a good shade covers him;' I have leant upon agood master, and I have been for months going about with him, andplease God I shall be just such another; long life to him and longlife to me, for neither will he be in any want of empires to rule,or I of islands to govern."

"No, Sancho my friend, certainly not," said the duke, "for in thename of Senor Don Quixote I confer upon you the government of one ofno small importance that I have at my disposal."

"Go down on thy knees, Sancho," said Don Quixote, "and kiss the feetof his excellence for the favour he has bestowed upon thee."

Sancho obeyed, and on seeing this the ecclesiastic stood up fromtable completely out of temper, exclaiming, "By the gown I wear, Iam almost inclined to say that your excellence is as great a fool asthese sinners. No wonder they are mad, when people who are in theirsenses sanction their madness! I leave your excellence with them,for so long as they are in the house, I will remain in my own, andspare myself the trouble of reproving what I cannot remedy;" andwithout uttering another word, or eating another morsel, he wentoff, the entreaties of the duke and duchess being entirelyunavailing to stop him; not that the duke said much to him, for hecould not, because of the laughter his uncalled-for anger provoked.

When he had done laughing, he said to Don Quixote, "You have repliedon your own behalf so stoutly, Sir Knight of the Lions, that thereis no occasion to seek further satisfaction for this, which, though itmay look like an offence, is not so at all, for, as women can giveno offence, no more can ecclesiastics, as you very well know."

"That is true," said Don Quixote, "and the reason is, that he who isnot liable to offence cannot give offence to anyone. Women,children, and ecclesiastics, as they cannot defend themselves,though they may receive offence cannot be insulted, because betweenthe offence and the insult there is, as your excellence very wellknows, this difference: the insult comes from one who is capable ofoffering it, and does so, and maintains it; the offence may comefrom any quarter without carrying insult. To take an example: a man isstanding unsuspectingly in the street and ten others come up armed andbeat him; he draws his sword and quits himself like a man, but thenumber of his antagonists makes it impossible for him to effect hispurpose and avenge himself; this man suffers an offence but not aninsult. Another example will make the same thing plain: a man isstanding with his back turned, another comes up and strikes him, andafter striking him takes to flight, without waiting an instant, andthe other pursues him but does not overtake him; he who received theblow received an offence, but not an insult, because an insult must bemaintained. If he who struck him, though he did so sneakingly andtreacherously, had drawn his sword and stood and faced him, then hewho had been struck would have received offence and insult at the sametime; offence because he was struck treacherously, insult because hewho struck him maintained what he had done, standing his groundwithout taking to flight. And so, according to the laws of theaccursed duel, I may have received offence, but not insult, forneither women nor children can maintain it, nor can they wound, norhave they any way of standing their ground, and it is just the samewith those connected with religion; for these three sorts of personsare without arms offensive or defensive, and so, though naturally theyare bound to defend themselves, they have no right to offendanybody; and though I said just now I might have received offence, Isay now certainly not, for he who cannot receive an insult can stillless give one; for which reasons I ought not to feel, nor do I feel,aggrieved at what that good man said to me; I only wish he hadstayed a little longer, that I might have shown him the mistake hemakes in supposing and maintaining that there are not and never havebeen any knights-errant in the world; had Amadis or any of hiscountless descendants heard him say as much, I am sure it would nothave gone well with his worship."

"I will take my oath of that," said Sancho; "they would have givenhim a slash that would have slit him down from top to toe like apomegranate or a ripe melon; they were likely fellows to put up withjokes of that sort! By my faith, I'm certain if Reinaldos of Montalvanhad heard the little man's words he would have given him such aspank on the mouth that he wouldn't have spoken for the next threeyears; ay, let him tackle them, and he'll see how he'll get out oftheir hands!"

The duchess, as she listened to Sancho, was ready to die withlaughter, and in her own mind she set him down as droller and madderthan his master; and there were a good many just then who were ofthe same opinion.

Don Quixote finally grew calm, and dinner came to an end, and as thecloth was removed four damsels came in, one of them with a silverbasin, another with a jug also of silver, a third with two finewhite towels on her shoulder, and the fourth with her arms bared tothe elbows, and in her white hands (for white they certainly were) around ball of Naples soap. The one with the basin approached, and witharch composure and impudence, thrust it under Don Quixote's chin, who,wondering at such a ceremony, said never a word, supposing it to bethe custom of that country to wash beards instead of hands; hetherefore stretched his out as far as he could, and at the sameinstant the jug began to pour and the damsel with the soap rubbedhis beard briskly, raising snow-flakes, for the soap lather was noless white, not only over the beard, but all over the face, and overthe eyes of the submissive knight, so that they were perforceobliged to keep shut. The duke and duchess, who had not known anythingabout this, waited to see what came of this strange washing. Thebarber damsel, when she had him a hand's breadth deep in lather,pretended that there was no more water, and bade the one with thejug go and fetch some, while Senor Don Quixote waited. She did so, andDon Quixote was left the strangest and most ludicrous figure thatcould be imagined. All those present, and there were a good many, werewatching him, and as they saw him there with half a yard of neck,and that uncommonly brown, his eyes shut, and his beard full ofsoap, it was a great wonder, and only by great discretion, that theywere able to restrain their laughter. The damsels, the concocters ofthe joke, kept their eyes down, not daring to look at their master andmistress; and as for them, laughter and anger struggled within them,and they knew not what to do, whether to punish the audacity of thegirls, or to reward them for the amusement they had received fromseeing Don Quixote in such a plight.

Title: Don Quixote
Author: Miqeul de Cervantes
Viewed 201704 times


Page generation 0.001 seconds