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Miqeul de Cervantes >> Don Quixote (page 32)


"You seem a clever fellow," said Don Quixote.

"And an unfortunate one," replied Gines, "for misfortune alwayspersecutes good wit."

"It persecutes rogues," said the commissary.

"I told you already to go gently, master commissary," saidPasamonte; "their lordships yonder never gave you that staff toill-treat us wretches here, but to conduct and take us where hismajesty orders you; if not, by the life of-never mind-; it may be thatsome day the stains made in the inn will come out in the scouring; leteveryone hold his tongue and behave well and speak better; and now letus march on, for we have had quite enough of this entertainment."

The commissary lifted his staff to strike Pasamonte in return forhis threats, but Don Quixote came between them, and begged him notto ill-use him, as it was not too much to allow one who had hishands tied to have his tongue a trifle free; and turning to thewhole chain of them he said:

"From all you have told me, dear brethren, make out clearly thatthough they have punished you for your faults, the punishments you areabout to endure do not give you much pleasure, and that you go to themvery much against the grain and against your will, and that perhapsthis one's want of courage under torture, that one's want of money,the other's want of advocacy, and lastly the perverted judgment of thejudge may have been the cause of your ruin and of your failure toobtain the justice you had on your side. All which presents itself nowto my mind, urging, persuading, and even compelling me todemonstrate in your case the purpose for which Heaven sent me into theworld and caused me to make profession of the order of chivalry towhich I belong, and the vow I took therein to give aid to those inneed and under the oppression of the strong. But as I know that itis a mark of prudence not to do by foul means what may be done byfair, I will ask these gentlemen, the guards and commissary, to beso good as to release you and let you go in peace, as there will be nolack of others to serve the king under more favourablecircumstances; for it seems to me a hard case to make slaves ofthose whom God and nature have made free. Moreover, sirs of theguard," added Don Quixote, "these poor fellows have done nothing toyou; let each answer for his own sins yonder; there is a God in Heavenwho will not forget to punish the wicked or reward the good; and it isnot fitting that honest men should be the instruments of punishment toothers, they being therein no way concerned. This request I makethus gently and quietly, that, if you comply with it, I may havereason for thanking you; and, if you will not voluntarily, thislance and sword together with the might of my arm shall compel youto comply with it by force."

"Nice nonsense!" said the commissary; "a fine piece of pleasantry hehas come out with at last! He wants us to let the king's prisoners go,as if we had any authority to release them, or he to order us to doso! Go your way, sir, and good luck to you; put that basin straightthat you've got on your head, and don't go looking for three feet on acat."

'Tis you that are the cat, rat, and rascal," replied Don Quixote,and acting on the word he fell upon him so suddenly that withoutgiving him time to defend himself he brought him to the groundsorely wounded with a lance-thrust; and lucky it was for him that itwas the one that had the musket. The other guards stoodthunderstruck and amazed at this unexpected event, but recoveringpresence of mind, those on horseback seized their swords, and those onfoot their javelins, and attacked Don Quixote, who was waiting forthem with great calmness; and no doubt it would have gone badly withhim if the galley slaves, seeing the chance before them ofliberating themselves, had not effected it by contriving to breakthe chain on which they were strung. Such was the confusion, thatthe guards, now rushing at the galley slaves who were breakingloose, now to attack Don Quixote who was waiting for them, did nothingat all that was of any use. Sancho, on his part, gave a helping handto release Gines de Pasamonte, who was the first to leap forth uponthe plain free and unfettered, and who, attacking the prostratecommissary, took from him his sword and the musket, with which, aimingat one and levelling at another, he, without ever discharging it,drove every one of the guards off the field, for they took toflight, as well to escape Pasamonte's musket, as the showers of stonesthe now released galley slaves were raining upon them. Sancho wasgreatly grieved at the affair, because he anticipated that those whohad fled would report the matter to the Holy Brotherhood, who at thesummons of the alarm-bell would at once sally forth in quest of theoffenders; and he said so to his master, and entreated him to leavethe place at once, and go into hiding in the sierra that was close by.

"That is all very well," said Don Quixote, "but I know what mustbe done now;" and calling together all the galley slaves, who were nowrunning riot, and had stripped the commissary to the skin, hecollected them round him to hear what he had to say, and addressedthem as follows: "To be grateful for benefits received is the partof persons of good birth, and one of the sins most offensive to God isingratitude; I say so because, sirs, ye have already seen bymanifest proof the benefit ye have received of me; in return for whichI desire, and it is my good pleasure that, laden with that chain whichI have taken off your necks, ye at once set out and proceed to thecity of El Toboso, and there present yourselves before the ladyDulcinea del Toboso, and say to her that her knight, he of theRueful Countenance, sends to commend himself to her; and that yerecount to her in full detail all the particulars of this notableadventure, up to the recovery of your longed-for liberty; and thisdone ye may go where ye will, and good fortune attend you."

Gines de Pasamonte made answer for all, saying, "That which you,sir, our deliverer, demand of us, is of all impossibilities the mostimpossible to comply with, because we cannot go together along theroads, but only singly and separate, and each one his own way,endeavouring to hide ourselves in the bowels of the earth to escapethe Holy Brotherhood, which, no doubt, will come out in search ofus. What your worship may do, and fairly do, is to change this serviceand tribute as regards the lady Dulcinea del Toboso for a certainquantity of ave-marias and credos which we will say for your worship'sintention, and this is a condition that can be complied with bynight as by day, running or resting, in peace or in war; but toimagine that we are going now to return to the flesh-pots of Egypt,I mean to take up our chain and set out for El Toboso, is to imaginethat it is now night, though it is not yet ten in the morning, andto ask this of us is like asking pears of the elm tree."

"Then by all that's good," said Don Quixote (now stirred towrath), "Don son of a bitch, Don Ginesillo de Paropillo, or whateveryour name is, you will have to go yourself alone, with your tailbetween your legs and the whole chain on your back."

Pasamonte, who was anything but meek (being by this timethoroughly convinced that Don Quixote was not quite right in hishead as he had committed such a vagary as to set them free), findinghimself abused in this fashion, gave the wink to his companions, andfalling back they began to shower stones on Don Quixote at such a ratethat he was quite unable to protect himself with his buckler, and poorRocinante no more heeded the spur than if he had been made of brass.Sancho planted himself behind his ass, and with him shelteredhimself from the hailstorm that poured on both of them. Don Quixotewas unable to shield himself so well but that more pebbles than Icould count struck him full on the body with such force that theybrought him to the ground; and the instant he fell the student pouncedupon him, snatched the basin from his head, and with it struck threeor four blows on his shoulders, and as many more on the ground,knocking it almost to pieces. They then stripped him of a jacketthat he wore over his armour, and they would have stripped off hisstockings if his greaves had not prevented them. From Sancho they tookhis coat, leaving him in his shirt-sleeves; and dividing amongthemselves the remaining spoils of the battle, they went each onehis own way, more solicitous about keeping clear of the HolyBrotherhood they dreaded, than about burdening themselves with thechain, or going to present themselves before the lady Dulcinea delToboso. The ass and Rocinante, Sancho and Don Quixote, were all thatwere left upon the spot; the ass with drooping head, serious,shaking his ears from time to time as if he thought the storm ofstones that assailed them was not yet over; Rocinante stretched besidehis master, for he too had been brought to the ground by a stone;Sancho stripped, and trembling with fear of the Holy Brotherhood;and Don Quixote fuming to find himself so served by the very personsfor whom he had done so much.

CHAPTER XXIII

OF WHAT BEFELL DON QUIXOTE IN THE SIERRA MORENA, WHICH WAS ONE OFTHE RAREST ADVENTURES RELATED IN THIS VERACIOUS HISTORY

Seeing himself served in this way, Don Quixote said to his squire,"I have always heard it said, Sancho, that to do good to boors is tothrow water into the sea. If I had believed thy words, I should haveavoided this trouble; but it is done now, it is only to havepatience and take warning for the future."

"Your worship will take warning as much as I am a Turk," returnedSancho; "but, as you say this mischief might have been avoided ifyou had believed me, believe me now, and a still greater one will beavoided; for I tell you chivalry is of no account with the HolyBrotherhood, and they don't care two maravedis for all theknights-errant in the world; and I can tell you I fancy I hear theirarrows whistling past my ears this minute."

"Thou art a coward by nature, Sancho," said Don Quixote, "but lestthou shouldst say I am obstinate, and that I never do as thou dostadvise, this once I will take thy advice, and withdraw out of reach ofthat fury thou so dreadest; but it must be on one condition, thatnever, in life or in death, thou art to say to anyone that I retiredor withdrew from this danger out of fear, but only in compliancewith thy entreaties; for if thou sayest otherwise thou wilt lietherein, and from this time to that, and from that to this, I givethee lie, and say thou liest and wilt lie every time thou thinkestor sayest it; and answer me not again; for at the mere thought thatI am withdrawing or retiring from any danger, above all from this,which does seem to carry some little shadow of fear with it, I amready to take my stand here and await alone, not only that HolyBrotherhood you talk of and dread, but the brothers of the twelvetribes of Israel, and the Seven Maccabees, and Castor and Pollux,and all the brothers and brotherhoods in the world."

"Senor," replied Sancho, "to retire is not to flee, and there isno wisdom in waiting when danger outweighs hope, and it is the part ofwise men to preserve themselves to-day for to-morrow, and not risk allin one day; and let me tell you, though I am a clown and a boor, Ihave got some notion of what they call safe conduct; so repent notof having taken my advice, but mount Rocinante if you can, and ifnot I will help you; and follow me, for my mother-wit tells me we havemore need of legs than hands just now."

Don Quixote mounted without replying, and, Sancho leading the way onhis ass, they entered the side of the Sierra Morena, which was closeby, as it was Sancho's design to cross it entirely and come outagain at El Viso or Almodovar del Campo, and hide for some daysamong its crags so as to escape the search of the Brotherhood shouldthey come to look for them. He was encouraged in this by perceivingthat the stock of provisions carried by the ass had come safe out ofthe fray with the galley slaves, a circumstance that he regarded asa miracle, seeing how they pillaged and ransacked.

That night they reached the very heart of the Sierra Morena, whereit seemed prudent to Sancho to pass the night and even some days, atleast as many as the stores he carried might last, and so theyencamped between two rocks and among some cork trees; but fataldestiny, which, according to the opinion of those who have not thelight of the true faith, directs, arranges, and settles everythingin its own way, so ordered it that Gines de Pasamonte, the famousknave and thief who by the virtue and madness of Don Quixote hadbeen released from the chain, driven by fear of the HolyBrotherhood, which he had good reason to dread, resolved to takehiding in the mountains; and his fate and fear led him to the samespot to which Don Quixote and Sancho Panza had been led by theirs,just in time to recognise them and leave them to fall asleep: and asthe wicked are always ungrateful, and necessity leads to evildoing,and immediate advantage overcomes all considerations of the future,Gines, who was neither grateful nor well-principled, made up hismind to steal Sancho Panza's ass, not troubling himself aboutRocinante, as being a prize that was no good either to pledge or sell.While Sancho slept he stole his ass, and before day dawned he wasfar out of reach.

Aurora made her appearance bringing gladness to the earth butsadness to Sancho Panza, for he found that his Dapple was missing, andseeing himself bereft of him he began the saddest and most dolefullament in the world, so loud that Don Quixote awoke at hisexclamations and heard him saying, "O son of my bowels, born in myvery house, my children's plaything, my wife's joy, the envy of myneighbours, relief of my burdens, and lastly, half supporter ofmyself, for with the six-and-twenty maravedis thou didst earn me dailyI met half my charges."

Don Quixote, when he heard the lament and learned the cause,consoled Sancho with the best arguments he could, entreating him to bepatient, and promising to give him a letter of exchange ordering threeout of five ass-colts that he had at home to be given to him. Sanchotook comfort at this, dried his tears, suppressed his sobs, andreturned thanks for the kindness shown him by Don Quixote. He on hispart was rejoiced to the heart on entering the mountains, as theyseemed to him to be just the place for the adventures he was inquest of. They brought back to his memory the marvellous adventuresthat had befallen knights-errant in like solitudes and wilds, and hewent along reflecting on these things, so absorbed and carried away bythem that he had no thought for anything else. Nor had Sancho anyother care (now that he fancied he was travelling in a safe quarter)than to satisfy his appetite with such remains as were left of theclerical spoils, and so he marched behind his master laden with whatDapple used to carry, emptying the sack and packing his paunch, and solong as he could go that way, he would not have given a farthing tomeet with another adventure.

Title: Don Quixote
Author: Miqeul de Cervantes
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