Miqeul de Cervantes >> Don Quixote (page 78)



Cide Hamete Benengeli, in the Second Part of this history, and thirdsally of Don Quixote, says that the curate and the barber remainednearly a month without seeing him, lest they should recall or bringback to his recollection what had taken place. They did not,however, omit to visit his niece and housekeeper, and charge them tobe careful to treat him with attention, and give him comforting thingsto eat, and such as were good for the heart and the brain, whence,it was plain to see, all his misfortune proceeded. The niece andhousekeeper replied that they did so, and meant to do so with allpossible care and assiduity, for they could perceive that their masterwas now and then beginning to show signs of being in his right mind.This gave great satisfaction to the curate and the barber, for theyconcluded they had taken the right course in carrying him offenchanted on the ox-cart, as has been described in the First Part ofthis great as well as accurate history, in the last chapter thereof.So they resolved to pay him a visit and test the improvement in hiscondition, although they thought it almost impossible that there couldbe any; and they agreed not to touch upon any point connected withknight-errantry so as not to run the risk of reopening wounds whichwere still so tender.

They came to see him consequently, and found him sitting up in bedin a green baize waistcoat and a red Toledo cap, and so withered anddried up that he looked as if he had been turned into a mummy. Theywere very cordially received by him; they asked him after hishealth, and he talked to them about himself very naturally and in verywell-chosen language. In the course of their conversation they fell todiscussing what they call State-craft and systems of government,correcting this abuse and condemning that, reforming one practiceand abolishing another, each of the three setting up for a newlegislator, a modern Lycurgus, or a brand-new Solon; and so completelydid they remodel the State, that they seemed to have thrust it intoa furnace and taken out something quite different from what they hadput in; and on all the subjects they dealt with, Don Quixote spokewith such good sense that the pair of examiners were fully convincedthat he was quite recovered and in his full senses.

The niece and housekeeper were present at the conversation and couldnot find words enough to express their thanks to God at seeing theirmaster so clear in his mind; the curate, however, changing hisoriginal plan, which was to avoid touching upon matters of chivalry,resolved to test Don Quixote's recovery thoroughly, and see whether itwere genuine or not; and so, from one subject to another, he came atlast to talk of the news that had come from the capital, and, amongother things, he said it was considered certain that the Turk wascoming down with a powerful fleet, and that no one knew what hispurpose was, or when the great storm would burst; and that allChristendom was in apprehension of this, which almost every year callsus to arms, and that his Majesty had made provision for the securityof the coasts of Naples and Sicily and the island of Malta.

To this Don Quixote replied, "His Majesty has acted like a prudentwarrior in providing for the safety of his realms in time, so that theenemy may not find him unprepared; but if my advice were taken I wouldrecommend him to adopt a measure which at present, no doubt, hisMajesty is very far from thinking of."

The moment the curate heard this he said to himself, "God keepthee in his hand, poor Don Quixote, for it seems to me thou artprecipitating thyself from the height of thy madness into the profoundabyss of thy simplicity."

But the barber, who had the same suspicion as the curate, askedDon Quixote what would be his advice as to the measures that he saidought to be adopted; for perhaps it might prove to be one that wouldhave to be added to the list of the many impertinent suggestionsthat people were in the habit of offering to princes.

"Mine, master shaver," said Don Quixote, "will not be impertinent,but, on the contrary, pertinent."

"I don't mean that," said the barber, "but that experience has shownthat all or most of the expedients which are proposed to his Majestyare either impossible, or absurd, or injurious to the King and tothe kingdom."

"Mine, however," replied Don Quixote, "is neither impossible norabsurd, but the easiest, the most reasonable, the readiest and mostexpeditious that could suggest itself to any projector's mind."

"You take a long time to tell it, Senor Don Quixote," said thecurate.

"I don't choose to tell it here, now," said Don Quixote, "and haveit reach the ears of the lords of the council to-morrow morning, andsome other carry off the thanks and rewards of my trouble."

"For my part," said the barber, "I give my word here and beforeGod that I will not repeat what your worship says, to King, Rook orearthly man- an oath I learned from the ballad of the curate, who,in the prelude, told the king of the thief who had robbed him of thehundred gold crowns and his pacing mule."

"I am not versed in stories," said Don Quixote; "but I know the oathis a good one, because I know the barber to be an honest fellow."

"Even if he were not," said the curate, "I will go bail and answerfor him that in this matter he will be as silent as a dummy, underpain of paying any penalty that may be pronounced."

"And who will be security for you, senor curate?" said Don Quixote.

"My profession," replied the curate, "which is to keep secrets."

"Ods body!" said Don Quixote at this, "what more has his Majestyto do but to command, by public proclamation, all the knights-errantthat are scattered over Spain to assemble on a fixed day in thecapital, for even if no more than half a dozen come, there may beone among them who alone will suffice to destroy the entire might ofthe Turk. Give me your attention and follow me. Is it, pray, any newthing for a single knight-errant to demolish an army of two hundredthousand men, as if they all had but one throat or were made ofsugar paste? Nay, tell me, how many histories are there filled withthese marvels? If only (in an evil hour for me: I don't speak foranyone else) the famous Don Belianis were alive now, or any one of theinnumerable progeny of Amadis of Gaul! If any these were alivetoday, and were to come face to face with the Turk, by my faith, Iwould not give much for the Turk's chance. But God will have regardfor his people, and will provide some one, who, if not so valiant asthe knights-errant of yore, at least will not be inferior to them inspirit; but God knows what I mean, and I say no more."

"Alas!" exclaimed the niece at this, "may I die if my master doesnot want to turn knight-errant again;" to which Don Quixote replied,"A knight-errant I shall die, and let the Turk come down or go up whenhe likes, and in as strong force as he can, once more I say, God knowswhat I mean." But here the barber said, "I ask your worships to giveme leave to tell a short story of something that happened inSeville, which comes so pat to the purpose just now that I should likegreatly to tell it." Don Quixote gave him leave, and the rest preparedto listen, and he began thus:

"In the madhouse at Seville there was a man whom his relations hadplaced there as being out of his mind. He was a graduate of Osuna incanon law; but even if he had been of Salamanca, it was the opinion ofmost people that he would have been mad all the same. This graduate,after some years of confinement, took it into his head that he wassane and in his full senses, and under this impression wrote to theArchbishop, entreating him earnestly, and in very correct language, tohave him released from the misery in which he was living; for by God'smercy he had now recovered his lost reason, though his relations, inorder to enjoy his property, kept him there, and, in spite of thetruth, would make him out to be mad until his dying day. TheArchbishop, moved by repeated sensible, well-written letters, directedone of his chaplains to make inquiry of the madhouse as to the truthof the licentiate's statements, and to have an interview with themadman himself, and, if it should appear that he was in his senses, totake him out and restore him to liberty. The chaplain did so, andthe governor assured him that the man was still mad, and that thoughhe often spoke like a highly intelligent person, he would in the endbreak out into nonsense that in quantity and quality counterbalancedall the sensible things he had said before, as might be easilytested by talking to him. The chaplain resolved to try the experiment,and obtaining access to the madman conversed with him for an hour ormore, during the whole of which time he never uttered a word thatwas incoherent or absurd, but, on the contrary, spoke so rationallythat the chaplain was compelled to believe him to be sane. Among otherthings, he said the governor was against him, not to lose the presentshis relations made him for reporting him still mad but with lucidintervals; and that the worst foe he had in his misfortune was hislarge property; for in order to enjoy it his enemies disparaged andthrew doubts upon the mercy our Lord had shown him in turning him froma brute beast into a man. In short, he spoke in such a way that hecast suspicion on the governor, and made his relations appear covetousand heartless, and himself so rational that the chaplain determined totake him away with him that the Archbishop might see him, andascertain for himself the truth of the matter. Yielding to thisconviction, the worthy chaplain begged the governor to have theclothes in which the licentiate had entered the house given to him.The governor again bade him beware of what he was doing, as thelicentiate was beyond a doubt still mad; but all his cautions andwarnings were unavailing to dissuade the chaplain from taking himaway. The governor, seeing that it was the order of the Archbishop,obeyed, and they dressed the licentiate in his own clothes, which werenew and decent. He, as soon as he saw himself clothed like one inhis senses, and divested of the appearance of a madman, entreatedthe chaplain to permit him in charity to go and take leave of hiscomrades the madmen. The chaplain said he would go with him to seewhat madmen there were in the house; so they went upstairs, and withthem some of those who were present. Approaching a cage in which therewas a furious madman, though just at that moment calm and quiet, thelicentiate said to him, 'Brother, think if you have any commands forme, for I am going home, as God has been pleased, in his infinitegoodness and mercy, without any merit of mine, to restore me myreason. I am now cured and in my senses, for with God's powernothing is impossible. Have strong hope and trust in him, for as hehas restored me to my original condition, so likewise he willrestore you if you trust in him. I will take care to send you somegood things to eat; and be sure you eat them; for I would have youknow I am convinced, as one who has gone through it, that all thismadness of ours comes of having the stomach empty and the brainsfull of wind. Take courage! take courage! for despondency inmisfortune breaks down health and brings on death.'

"To all these words of the licentiate another madman in a cageopposite that of the furious one was listening; and raising himself upfrom an old mat on which he lay stark naked, he asked in a loudvoice who it was that was going away cured and in his senses. Thelicentiate answered, 'It is I, brother, who am going; I have now noneed to remain here any longer, for which I return infinite thanksto Heaven that has had so great mercy upon me.'

"'Mind what you are saying, licentiate; don't let the devildeceive you,' replied the madman. 'Keep quiet, stay where you are, andyou will save yourself the trouble of coming back.'

"'I know I am cured,' returned the licentiate, 'and that I shall nothave to go stations again.'

"'You cured!' said the madman; 'well, we shall see; God be with you;but I swear to you by Jupiter, whose majesty I represent on earth,that for this crime alone, which Seville is committing to-day inreleasing you from this house, and treating you as if you were in yoursenses, I shall have to inflict such a punishment on it as will beremembered for ages and ages, amen. Dost thou not know, thou miserablelittle licentiate, that I can do it, being, as I say, Jupiter theThunderer, who hold in my hands the fiery bolts with which I am ableand am wont to threaten and lay waste the world? But in one way onlywill I punish this ignorant town, and that is by not raining uponit, nor on any part of its district or territory, for three wholeyears, to be reckoned from the day and moment when this threat ispronounced. Thou free, thou cured, thou in thy senses! and I mad, Idisordered, I bound! I will as soon think of sending rain as ofhanging myself.

"Those present stood listening to the words and exclamations ofthe madman; but our licentiate, turning to the chaplain and seizinghim by the hands, said to him, 'Be not uneasy, senor; attach noimportance to what this madman has said; for if he is Jupiter and willnot send rain, I, who am Neptune, the father and god of the waters,will rain as often as it pleases me and may be needful.'

"The governor and the bystanders laughed, and at their laughterthe chaplain was half ashamed, and he replied, 'For all that, SenorNeptune, it will not do to vex Senor Jupiter; remain where you are,and some other day, when there is a better opportunity and moretime, we will come back for you.' So they stripped the licentiate, andhe was left where he was; and that's the end of the story."

"So that's the story, master barber," said Don Quixote, "whichcame in so pat to the purpose that you could not help telling it?Master shaver, master shaver! how blind is he who cannot see through asieve. Is it possible that you do not know that comparisons of witwith wit, valour with valour, beauty with beauty, birth with birth,are always odious and unwelcome? I, master barber, am not Neptune, thegod of the waters, nor do I try to make anyone take me for an astuteman, for I am not one. My only endeavour is to convince the world ofthe mistake it makes in not reviving in itself the happy time when theorder of knight-errantry was in the field. But our depraved age doesnot deserve to enjoy such a blessing as those ages enjoyed whenknights-errant took upon their shoulders the defence of kingdoms,the protection of damsels, the succour of orphans and minors, thechastisement of the proud, and the recompense of the humble. Withthe knights of these days, for the most part, it is the damask,brocade, and rich stuffs they wear, that rustle as they go, not thechain mail of their armour; no knight now-a-days sleeps in the openfield exposed to the inclemency of heaven, and in full panoply fromhead to foot; no one now takes a nap, as they call it, without drawinghis feet out of the stirrups, and leaning upon his lance, as theknights-errant used to do; no one now, issuing from the wood,penetrates yonder mountains, and then treads the barren, lonelyshore of the sea- mostly a tempestuous and stormy one- and findingon the beach a little bark without oars, sail, mast, or tackling ofany kind, in the intrepidity of his heart flings himself into it andcommits himself to the wrathful billows of the deep sea, that onemoment lift him up to heaven and the next plunge him into thedepths; and opposing his breast to the irresistible gale, findshimself, when he least expects it, three thousand leagues and moreaway from the place where he embarked; and leaping ashore in aremote and unknown land has adventures that deserve to be written, noton parchment, but on brass. But now sloth triumphs over energy,indolence over exertion, vice over virtue, arrogance over courage, andtheory over practice in arms, which flourished and shone only in thegolden ages and in knights-errant. For tell me, who was morevirtuous and more valiant than the famous Amadis of Gaul? Who morediscreet than Palmerin of England? Who more gracious and easy thanTirante el Blanco? Who more courtly than Lisuarte of Greece? Whomore slashed or slashing than Don Belianis? Who more intrepid thanPerion of Gaul? Who more ready to face danger than Felixmarte ofHircania? Who more sincere than Esplandian? Who more impetuous thanDon Cirongilio of Thrace? Who more bold than Rodamonte? Who moreprudent than King Sobrino? Who more daring than Reinaldos? Who moreinvincible than Roland? and who more gallant and courteous thanRuggiero, from whom the dukes of Ferrara of the present day aredescended, according to Turpin in his 'Cosmography.' All theseknights, and many more that I could name, senor curate, wereknights-errant, the light and glory of chivalry. These, or such asthese, I would have to carry out my plan, and in that case his Majestywould find himself well served and would save great expense, and theTurk would be left tearing his beard. And so I will stay where I am,as the chaplain does not take me away; and if Jupiter, as the barberhas told us, will not send rain, here am I, and I will rain when Iplease. I say this that Master Basin may know that I understand him."

Title: Don Quixote
Author: Miqeul de Cervantes
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