Miqeul de Cervantes >> Don Quixote (page 83)

Sancho consoled her by saying that though he must make her acountess, he would put it off as long as possible. Here theirconversation came to an end, and Sancho went back to see DonQuixote, and make arrangements for their departure.



While Sancho Panza and his wife, Teresa Cascajo, held the aboveirrelevant conversation, Don Quixote's niece and housekeeper werenot idle, for by a thousand signs they began to perceive that theiruncle and master meant to give them the slip the third time, andonce more betake himself to his, for them, ill-errant chivalry. Theystrove by all the means in their power to divert him from such anunlucky scheme; but it was all preaching in the desert and hammeringcold iron. Nevertheless, among many other representations made to him,the housekeeper said to him, "In truth, master, if you do not keepstill and stay quiet at home, and give over roaming mountains andvalleys like a troubled spirit, looking for what they say are calledadventures, but what I call misfortunes, I shall have to makecomplaint to God and the king with loud supplication to send someremedy."

To which Don Quixote replied, "What answer God will give to yourcomplaints, housekeeper, I know not, nor what his Majesty willanswer either; I only know that if I were king I should decline toanswer the numberless silly petitions they present every day; forone of the greatest among the many troubles kings have is beingobliged to listen to all and answer all, and therefore I should besorry that any affairs of mine should worry him."

Whereupon the housekeeper said, "Tell us, senor, at his Majesty'scourt are there no knights?"

"There are," replied Don Quixote, "and plenty of them; and it isright there should be, to set off the dignity of the prince, and forthe greater glory of the king's majesty."

"Then might not your worship," said she, "be one of those that,without stirring a step, serve their king and lord in his court?"

"Recollect, my friend," said Don Quixote, "all knights cannot becourtiers, nor can all courtiers be knights-errant, nor need theybe. There must be all sorts in the world; and though we may be allknights, there is a great difference between one and another; forthe courtiers, without quitting their chambers, or the threshold ofthe court, range the world over by looking at a map, without itscosting them a farthing, and without suffering heat or cold, hunger orthirst; but we, the true knights-errant, measure the whole earthwith our own feet, exposed to the sun, to the cold, to the air, to theinclemencies of heaven, by day and night, on foot and on horseback;nor do we only know enemies in pictures, but in their own real shapes;and at all risks and on all occasions we attack them, without anyregard to childish points or rules of single combat, whether one hasor has not a shorter lance or sword, whether one carries relics or anysecret contrivance about him, whether or not the sun is to bedivided and portioned out, and other niceties of the sort that areobserved in set combats of man to man, that you know nothing about,but I do. And you must know besides, that the true knight-errant,though he may see ten giants, that not only touch the clouds withtheir heads but pierce them, and that go, each of them, on two talltowers by way of legs, and whose arms are like the masts of mightyships, and each eye like a great mill-wheel, and glowing brighter thana glass furnace, must not on any account be dismayed by them. On thecontrary, he must attack and fall upon them with a gallant bearing anda fearless heart, and, if possible, vanquish and destroy them, eventhough they have for armour the shells of a certain fish, that theysay are harder than diamonds, and in place of swords wield trenchantblades of Damascus steel, or clubs studded with spikes also ofsteel, such as I have more than once seen. All this I say,housekeeper, that you may see the difference there is between theone sort of knight and the other; and it would be well if there wereno prince who did not set a higher value on this second, or moreproperly speaking first, kind of knights-errant; for, as we read intheir histories, there have been some among them who have been thesalvation, not merely of one kingdom, but of many."

"Ah, senor," here exclaimed the niece, "remember that all this youare saying about knights-errant is fable and fiction; and theirhistories, if indeed they were not burned, would deserve, each ofthem, to have a sambenito put on it, or some mark by which it might beknown as infamous and a corrupter of good manners."

"By the God that gives me life," said Don Quixote, "if thou wert notmy full niece, being daughter of my own sister, I would inflict achastisement upon thee for the blasphemy thou hast uttered that allthe world should ring with. What! can it be that a young hussy thathardly knows how to handle a dozen lace-bobbins dares to wag hertongue and criticise the histories of knights-errant? What would SenorAmadis say if he heard of such a thing? He, however, no doubt wouldforgive thee, for he was the most humble-minded and courteous knightof his time, and moreover a great protector of damsels; but some thereare that might have heard thee, and it would not have been well forthee in that case; for they are not all courteous or mannerly; someare ill-conditioned scoundrels; nor is it everyone that callshimself a gentleman, that is so in all respects; some are gold, otherspinchbeck, and all look like gentlemen, but not all can stand thetouchstone of truth. There are men of low rank who strain themselvesto bursting to pass for gentlemen, and high gentlemen who, one wouldfancy, were dying to pass for men of low rank; the former raisethemselves by their ambition or by their virtues, the latter debasethemselves by their lack of spirit or by their vices; and one has needof experience and discernment to distinguish these two kinds ofgentlemen, so much alike in name and so different in conduct."

"God bless me!" said the niece, "that you should know so much,uncle- enough, if need be, to get up into a pulpit and go preach inthe streets -and yet that you should fall into a delusion so great anda folly so manifest as to try to make yourself out vigorous when youare old, strong when you are sickly, able to put straight what iscrooked when you yourself are bent by age, and, above all, a caballerowhen you are not one; for though gentlefolk may he so, poor men arenothing of the kind!"

"There is a great deal of truth in what you say, niece," returnedDon Quixote, "and I could tell you somewhat about birth that wouldastonish you; but, not to mix up things human and divine, I refrain.Look you, my dears, all the lineages in the world (attend to what I amsaying) can be reduced to four sorts, which are these: those thathad humble beginnings, and went on spreading and extendingthemselves until they attained surpassing greatness; those that hadgreat beginnings and maintained them, and still maintain and upholdthe greatness of their origin; those, again, that from a greatbeginning have ended in a point like a pyramid, having reduced andlessened their original greatness till it has come to nought, like thepoint of a pyramid, which, relatively to its base or foundation, isnothing; and then there are those- and it is they that are the mostnumerous- that have had neither an illustrious beginning nor aremarkable mid-course, and so will have an end without a name, like anordinary plebeian line. Of the first, those that had an humbleorigin and rose to the greatness they still preserve, the Ottomanhouse may serve as an example, which from an humble and lowlyshepherd, its founder, has reached the height at which we now seeit. For examples of the second sort of lineage, that began withgreatness and maintains it still without adding to it, there are themany princes who have inherited the dignity, and maintain themselvesin their inheritance, without increasing or diminishing it, keepingpeacefully within the limits of their states. Of those that begangreat and ended in a point, there are thousands of examples, for allthe Pharaohs and Ptolemies of Egypt, the Caesars of Rome, and thewhole herd (if I may such a word to them) of countless princes,monarchs, lords, Medes, Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, and barbarians,all these lineages and lordships have ended in a point and come tonothing, they themselves as well as their founders, for it would beimpossible now to find one of their descendants, and, even should wefind one, it would be in some lowly and humble condition. Ofplebeian lineages I have nothing to say, save that they merely serveto swell the number of those that live, without any eminence toentitle them to any fame or praise beyond this. From all I have said Iwould have you gather, my poor innocents, that great is theconfusion among lineages, and that only those are seen to be great andillustrious that show themselves so by the virtue, wealth, andgenerosity of their possessors. I have said virtue, wealth, andgenerosity, because a great man who is vicious will be a great exampleof vice, and a rich man who is not generous will be merely a miserlybeggar; for the possessor of wealth is not made happy by possessingit, but by spending it, and not by spending as he pleases, but byknowing how to spend it well. The poor gentleman has no way of showingthat he is a gentleman but by virtue, by being affable, well-bred,courteous, gentle-mannered, and kindly, not haughty, arrogant, orcensorious, but above all by being charitable; for by two maravedisgiven with a cheerful heart to the poor, he will show himself asgenerous as he who distributes alms with bell-ringing, and no one thatperceives him to be endowed with the virtues I have named, even thoughhe know him not, will fail to recognise and set him down as one ofgood blood; and it would be strange were it not so; praise has everbeen the reward of virtue, and those who are virtuous cannot fail toreceive commendation. There are two roads, my daughters, by whichmen may reach wealth and honours; one is that of letters, the otherthat of arms. I have more of arms than of letters in my composition,and, judging by my inclination to arms, was born under the influenceof the planet Mars. I am, therefore, in a measure constrained tofollow that road, and by it I must travel in spite of all the world,and it will be labour in vain for you to urge me to resist what heavenwills, fate ordains, reason requires, and, above all, my owninclination favours; for knowing as I do the countless toils thatare the accompaniments of knight-errantry, I know, too, the infiniteblessings that are attained by it; I know that the path of virtue isvery narrow, and the road of vice broad and spacious; I know theirends and goals are different, for the broad and easy road of vice endsin death, and the narrow and toilsome one of virtue in life, and nottransitory life, but in that which has no end; I know, as our greatCastilian poet says, that-

It is by rugged paths like these they goThat scale the heights of immortality,Unreached by those that falter here below."

"Woe is me!" exclaimed the niece, "my lord is a poet, too! Heknows everything, and he can do everything; I will bet, if he chose toturn mason, he could make a house as easily as a cage."

"I can tell you, niece," replied Don Quixote, "if these chivalrousthoughts did not engage all my faculties, there would be nothingthat I could not do, nor any sort of knickknack that would not comefrom my hands, particularly cages and tooth-picks."

At this moment there came a knocking at the door, and when theyasked who was there, Sancho Panza made answer that it was he. Theinstant the housekeeper knew who it was, she ran to hide herself so asnot to see him; in such abhorrence did she hold him. The niece let himin, and his master Don Quixote came forward to receive him with openarms, and the pair shut themselves up in his room, where they hadanother conversation not inferior to the previous one.



The instant the housekeeper saw Sancho Panza shut himself in withher master, she guessed what they were about; and suspecting thatthe result of the consultation would be a resolve to undertake a thirdsally, she seized her mantle, and in deep anxiety and distress, ran tofind the bachelor Samson Carrasco, as she thought that, being awell-spoken man, and a new friend of her master's, he might be able topersuade him to give up any such crazy notion. She found him pacingthe patio of his house, and, perspiring and flurried, she fell athis feet the moment she saw him.

Carrasco, seeing how distressed and overcome she was, said to her,"What is this, mistress housekeeper? What has happened to you? Onewould think you heart-broken."

"Nothing, Senor Samson," said she, "only that my master isbreaking out, plainly breaking out."

"Whereabouts is he breaking out, senora?" asked Samson; "has anypart of his body burst?"

"He is only breaking out at the door of his madness," she replied;"I mean, dear senor bachelor, that he is going to break out again (andthis will be the third time) to hunt all over the world for what hecalls ventures, though I can't make out why he gives them that name.The first time he was brought back to us slung across the back of anass, and belaboured all over; and the second time he came in anox-cart, shut up in a cage, in which he persuaded himself he wasenchanted, and the poor creature was in such a state that the motherthat bore him would not have known him; lean, yellow, with his eyessunk deep in the cells of his skull; so that to bring him round again,ever so little, cost me more than six hundred eggs, as God knows,and all the world, and my hens too, that won't let me tell a lie."

"That I can well believe," replied the bachelor, "for they are sogood and so fat, and so well-bred, that they would not say one thingfor another, though they were to burst for it. In short then, mistresshousekeeper, that is all, and there is nothing the matter, except whatit is feared Don Quixote may do?"

Title: Don Quixote
Author: Miqeul de Cervantes
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