Miqeul de Cervantes >> Don Quixote (page 59)

All this lengthy discourse Don Quixote delivered while the otherssupped, forgetting to raise a morsel to his lips, though Sancho morethan once told him to eat his supper, as he would have time enoughafterwards to say all he wanted. It excited fresh pity in those whohad heard him to see a man of apparently sound sense, and withrational views on every subject he discussed, so hopelessly wanting inall, when his wretched unlucky chivalry was in question. The curatetold him he was quite right in all he had said in favour of arms,and that he himself, though a man of letters and a graduate, was ofthe same opinion.

They finished their supper, the cloth was removed, and while thehostess, her daughter, and Maritornes were getting Don Quixote of LaMancha's garret ready, in which it was arranged that the women were tobe quartered by themselves for the night, Don Fernando begged thecaptive to tell them the story of his life, for it could not fail tobe strange and interesting, to judge by the hints he had let fall onhis arrival in company with Zoraida. To this the captive repliedthat he would very willingly yield to his request, only he fearedhis tale would not give them as much pleasure as he wished;nevertheless, not to be wanting in compliance, he would tell it. Thecurate and the others thanked him and added their entreaties, and hefinding himself so pressed said there was no occasion ask, where acommand had such weight, and added, "If your worships will give meyour attention you will hear a true story which, perhaps, fictitiousones constructed with ingenious and studied art cannot come up to."These words made them settle themselves in their places and preserve adeep silence, and he seeing them waiting on his words in muteexpectation, began thus in a pleasant quiet voice.



My family had its origin in a village in the mountains of Leon,and nature had been kinder and more generous to it than fortune;though in the general poverty of those communities my father passedfor being even a rich man; and he would have been so in reality had hebeen as clever in preserving his property as he was in spending it.This tendency of his to be liberal and profuse he had acquired fromhaving been a soldier in his youth, for the soldier's life is a schoolin which the niggard becomes free-handed and the free-handed prodigal;and if any soldiers are to be found who are misers, they aremonsters of rare occurrence. My father went beyond liberality andbordered on prodigality, a disposition by no means advantageous to amarried man who has children to succeed to his name and position. Myfather had three, all sons, and all of sufficient age to make choiceof a profession. Finding, then, that he was unable to resist hispropensity, he resolved to divest himself of the instrument andcause of his prodigality and lavishness, to divest himself ofwealth, without which Alexander himself would have seemedparsimonious; and so calling us all three aside one day into a room,he addressed us in words somewhat to the following effect:

"My sons, to assure you that I love you, no more need be known orsaid than that you are my sons; and to encourage a suspicion that I donot love you, no more is needed than the knowledge that I have noself-control as far as preservation of your patrimony is concerned;therefore, that you may for the future feel sure that I love youlike a father, and have no wish to ruin you like a stepfather, Ipropose to do with you what I have for some time back meditated, andafter mature deliberation decided upon. You are now of an age tochoose your line of life or at least make choice of a calling thatwill bring you honour and profit when you are older; and what I haveresolved to do is to divide my property into four parts; three Iwill give to you, to each his portion without making any difference,and the other I will retain to live upon and support myself forwhatever remainder of life Heaven may be pleased to grant me. But Iwish each of you on taking possession of the share that falls to himto follow one of the paths I shall indicate. In this Spain of oursthere is a proverb, to my mind very true- as they all are, being shortaphorisms drawn from long practical experience- and the one I refer tosays, 'The church, or the sea, or the king's house;' as much as tosay, in plainer language, whoever wants to flourish and become rich,let him follow the church, or go to sea, adopting commerce as hiscalling, or go into the king's service in his household, for they say,'Better a king's crumb than a lord's favour.' I say so because it ismy will and pleasure that one of you should follow letters, anothertrade, and the third serve the king in the wars, for it is a difficultmatter to gain admission to his service in his household, and if wardoes not bring much wealth it confers great distinction and fame.Eight days hence I will give you your full shares in money, withoutdefrauding you of a farthing, as you will see in the end. Now tellme if you are willing to follow out my idea and advice as I havelaid it before you."

Having called upon me as the eldest to answer, I, after urging himnot to strip himself of his property but to spend it all as hepleased, for we were young men able to gain our living, consented tocomply with his wishes, and said that mine were to follow theprofession of arms and thereby serve God and my king. My secondbrother having made the same proposal, decided upon going to theIndies, embarking the portion that fell to him in trade. The youngest,and in my opinion the wisest, said he would rather follow thechurch, or go to complete his studies at Salamanca. As soon as wehad come to an understanding, and made choice of our professions, myfather embraced us all, and in the short time he mentioned carriedinto effect all he had promised; and when he had given to each hisshare, which as well as I remember was three thousand ducats apiece incash (for an uncle of ours bought the estate and paid for it down, notto let it go out of the family), we all three on the same day tookleave of our good father; and at the same time, as it seemed to meinhuman to leave my father with such scanty means in his old age, Iinduced him to take two of my three thousand ducats, as theremainder would be enough to provide me with all a soldier needed.My two brothers, moved by my example, gave him each a thousand ducats,so that there was left for my father four thousand ducats in money,besides three thousand, the value of the portion that fell to himwhich he preferred to retain in land instead of selling it. Finally,as I said, we took leave of him, and of our uncle whom I havementioned, not without sorrow and tears on both sides, they chargingus to let them know whenever an opportunity offered how we fared,whether well or ill. We promised to do so, and when he had embraced usand given us his blessing, one set out for Salamanca, the other forSeville, and I for Alicante, where I had heard there was a Genoesevessel taking in a cargo of wool for Genoa.

It is now some twenty-two years since I left my father's house,and all that time, though I have written several letters, I have hadno news whatever of him or of my brothers; my own adventures duringthat period I will now relate briefly. I embarked at Alicante, reachedGenoa after a prosperous voyage, and proceeded thence to Milan,where I provided myself with arms and a few soldier's accoutrements;thence it was my intention to go and take service in Piedmont, butas I was already on the road to Alessandria della Paglia, I learnedthat the great Duke of Alva was on his way to Flanders. I changed myplans, joined him, served under him in the campaigns he made, waspresent at the deaths of the Counts Egmont and Horn, and waspromoted to be ensign under a famous captain of Guadalajara, Diegode Urbina by name. Some time after my arrival in Flanders news came ofthe league that his Holiness Pope Pius V of happy memory, had madewith Venice and Spain against the common enemy, the Turk, who had justthen with his fleet taken the famous island of Cyprus, whichbelonged to the Venetians, a loss deplorable and disastrous. It wasknown as a fact that the Most Serene Don John of Austria, naturalbrother of our good king Don Philip, was coming ascommander-in-chief of the allied forces, and rumours were abroad ofthe vast warlike preparations which were being made, all which stirredmy heart and filled me with a longing to take part in the campaignwhich was expected; and though I had reason to believe, and almostcertain promises, that on the first opportunity that presenteditself I should be promoted to be captain, I preferred to leave alland betake myself, as I did, to Italy; and it was my good fortune thatDon John had just arrived at Genoa, and was going on to Naples to jointhe Venetian fleet, as he afterwards did at Messina. I may say, inshort, that I took part in that glorious expedition, promoted bythis time to be a captain of infantry, to which honourable charge mygood luck rather than my merits raised me; and that day- sofortunate for Christendom, because then all the nations of the earthwere disabused of the error under which they lay in imagining theTurks to be invincible on sea-on that day, I say, on which the Ottomanpride and arrogance were broken, among all that were there madehappy (for the Christians who died that day were happier than thosewho remained alive and victorious) I alone was miserable; for, insteadof some naval crown that I might have expected had it been in Romantimes, on the night that followed that famous day I found myselfwith fetters on my feet and manacles on my hands.

It happened in this way: El Uchali, the king of Algiers, a daringand successful corsair, having attacked and taken the leadingMaltese galley (only three knights being left alive in it, and theybadly wounded), the chief galley of John Andrea, on board of which Iand my company were placed, came to its relief, and doing as was boundto do in such a case, I leaped on board the enemy's galley, which,sheering off from that which had attacked it, prevented my men fromfollowing me, and so I found myself alone in the midst of myenemies, who were in such numbers that I was unable to resist; inshort I was taken, covered with wounds; El Uchali, as you know,sirs, made his escape with his entire squadron, and I was left aprisoner in his power, the only sad being among so many filled withjoy, and the only captive among so many free; for there were fifteenthousand Christians, all at the oar in the Turkish fleet, thatregained their longed-for liberty that day.

They carried me to Constantinople, where the Grand Turk, Selim, mademy master general at sea for having done his duty in the battle andcarried off as evidence of his bravery the standard of the Order ofMalta. The following year, which was the year seventy-two, I foundmyself at Navarino rowing in the leading galley with the threelanterns. There I saw and observed how the opportunity of capturingthe whole Turkish fleet in harbour was lost; for all the marines andjanizzaries that belonged to it made sure that they were about to beattacked inside the very harbour, and had their kits and pasamaques,or shoes, ready to flee at once on shore without waiting to beassailed, in so great fear did they stand of our fleet. But Heavenordered it otherwise, not for any fault or neglect of the generalwho commanded on our side, but for the sins of Christendom, andbecause it was God's will and pleasure that we should always haveinstruments of punishment to chastise us. As it was, El Uchali tookrefuge at Modon, which is an island near Navarino, and landingforces fortified the mouth of the harbour and waited quietly until DonJohn retired. On this expedition was taken the galley called thePrize, whose captain was a son of the famous corsair Barbarossa. Itwas taken by the chief Neapolitan galley called the She-wolf,commanded by that thunderbolt of war, that father of his men, thatsuccessful and unconquered captain Don Alvaro de Bazan, Marquis ofSanta Cruz; and I cannot help telling you what took place at thecapture of the Prize.

The son of Barbarossa was so cruel, and treated his slaves so badly,that, when those who were at the oars saw that the She-wolf galley wasbearing down upon them and gaining upon them, they all at once droppedtheir oars and seized their captain who stood on the stage at theend of the gangway shouting to them to row lustily; and passing him onfrom bench to bench, from the poop to the prow, they so bit him thatbefore he had got much past the mast his soul had already got to hell;so great, as I said, was the cruelty with which he treated them, andthe hatred with which they hated him.

We returned to Constantinople, and the following year,seventy-three, it became known that Don John had seized Tunis andtaken the kingdom from the Turks, and placed Muley Hamet inpossession, putting an end to the hopes which Muley Hamida, thecruelest and bravest Moor in the world, entertained of returning toreign there. The Grand Turk took the loss greatly to heart, and withthe cunning which all his race possess, he made peace with theVenetians (who were much more eager for it than he was), and thefollowing year, seventy-four, he attacked the Goletta and the fortwhich Don John had left half built near Tunis. While all theseevents were occurring, I was labouring at the oar without any hopeof freedom; at least I had no hope of obtaining it by ransom, for Iwas firmly resolved not to write to my father telling him of mymisfortunes. At length the Goletta fell, and the fort fell, beforewhich places there were seventy-five thousand regular Turkishsoldiers, and more than four hundred thousand Moors and Arabs from allparts of Africa, and in the train of all this great host suchmunitions and engines of war, and so many pioneers that with theirhands they might have covered the Goletta and the fort with handfulsof earth. The first to fall was the Goletta, until then reckonedimpregnable, and it fell, not by any fault of its defenders, who didall that they could and should have done, but because experimentproved how easily entrenchments could be made in the desert sandthere; for water used to be found at two palms depth, while theTurks found none at two yards; and so by means of a quantity ofsandbags they raised their works so high that they commanded the wallsof the fort, sweeping them as if from a cavalier, so that no one wasable to make a stand or maintain the defence.

Title: Don Quixote
Author: Miqeul de Cervantes
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