Miqeul de Cervantes >> Don Quixote (page 88)

"Very likely," said Sancho; "for her beauty bewildered me as much asher ugliness did your worship; but let us leave it all to God, whoalone knows what is to happen in this vale of tears, in this evilworld of ours, where there is hardly a thing to be found withoutsome mixture of wickedness, roguery, and rascality. But one thing,senor, troubles me more than all the rest, and that is thinking whatis to be done when your worship conquers some giant, or some otherknight, and orders him to go and present himself before the beautyof the lady Dulcinea. Where is this poor giant, or this poor wretch ofa vanquished knight, to find her? I think I can see them wandering allover El Toboso, looking like noddies, and asking for my lady Dulcinea;and even if they meet her in the middle of the street they won'tknow her any more than they would my father."

"Perhaps, Sancho," returned Don Quixote, "the enchantment does notgo so far as to deprive conquered and presented giants and knightsof the power of recognising Dulcinea; we will try by experiment withone or two of the first I vanquish and send to her, whether they seeher or not, by commanding them to return and give me an account ofwhat happened to them in this respect."

"I declare, I think what your worship has proposed is excellent,"said Sancho; "and that by this plan we shall find out what we wantto know; and if it be that it is only from your worship she is hidden,the misfortune will be more yours than hers; but so long as the ladyDulcinea is well and happy, we on our part will make the best of it,and get on as well as we can, seeking our adventures, and leaving Timeto take his own course; for he is the best physician for these andgreater ailments."

Don Quixote was about to reply to Sancho Panza, but he was preventedby a cart crossing the road full of the most diverse and strangepersonages and figures that could be imagined. He who led the mulesand acted as carter was a hideous demon; the cart was open to the sky,without a tilt or cane roof, and the first figure that presenteditself to Don Quixote's eyes was that of Death itself with a humanface; next to it was an angel with large painted wings, and at oneside an emperor, with a crown, to all appearance of gold, on his head.At the feet of Death was the god called Cupid, without his bandage,but with his bow, quiver, and arrows; there was also a knight infull armour, except that he had no morion or helmet, but only a hatdecked with plumes of divers colours; and along with these therewere others with a variety of costumes and faces. All this,unexpectedly encountered, took Don Quixote somewhat aback, andstruck terror into the heart of Sancho; but the next instant DonQuixote was glad of it, believing that some new perilous adventure waspresenting itself to him, and under this impression, and with a spiritprepared to face any danger, he planted himself in front of thecart, and in a loud and menacing tone, exclaimed, "Carter, orcoachman, or devil, or whatever thou art, tell me at once who thouart, whither thou art going, and who these folk are thou carriest inthy wagon, which looks more like Charon's boat than an ordinary cart."

To which the devil, stopping the cart, answered quietly, "Senor,we are players of Angulo el Malo's company; we have been acting theplay of 'The Cortes of Death' this morning, which is the octave ofCorpus Christi, in a village behind that hill, and we have to act itthis afternoon in that village which you can see from this; and asit is so near, and to save the trouble of undressing and dressingagain, we go in the costumes in which we perform. That lad thereappears as Death, that other as an angel, that woman, the manager'swife, plays the queen, this one the soldier, that the emperor, and Ithe devil; and I am one of the principal characters of the play, forin this company I take the leading parts. If you want to know anythingmore about us, ask me and I will answer with the utmost exactitude,for as I am a devil I am up to everything."

"By the faith of a knight-errant," replied Don Quixote, "when Isaw this cart I fancied some great adventure was presenting itselfto me; but I declare one must touch with the hand what appears tothe eye, if illusions are to be avoided. God speed you, good people;keep your festival, and remember, if you demand of me ought whereinI can render you a service, I will do it gladly and willingly, forfrom a child I was fond of the play, and in my youth a keen lover ofthe actor's art."

While they were talking, fate so willed it that one of the companyin a mummers' dress with a great number of bells, and armed with threeblown ox-bladders at the end of a stick, joined them, and thismerry-andrew approaching Don Quixote, began flourishing his stickand banging the ground with the bladders and cutting capers with greatjingling of the bells, which untoward apparition so startled Rocinantethat, in spite of Don Quixote's efforts to hold him in, taking the bitbetween his teeth he set off across the plain with greater speedthan the bones of his anatomy ever gave any promise of. Sancho, whothought his master was in danger of being thrown, jumped off Dapple,and ran in all haste to help him; but by the time he reached him hewas already on the ground, and beside him was Rocinante, who hadcome down with his master, the usual end and upshot of Rocinante'svivacity and high spirits. But the moment Sancho quitted his beastto go and help Don Quixote, the dancing devil with the bladders jumpedup on Dapple, and beating him with them, more by the fright and thenoise than by the pain of the blows, made him fly across the fieldstowards the village where they were going to hold their festival.Sancho witnessed Dapple's career and his master's fall, and did notknow which of the two cases of need he should attend to first; butin the end, like a good squire and good servant, he let his love forhis master prevail over his affection for his ass; though every timehe saw the bladders rise in the air and come down on the hind quartersof his Dapple he felt the pains and terrors of death, and he wouldhave rather had the blows fall on the apples of his own eyes than onthe least hair of his ass's tail. In this trouble and perplexity hecame to where Don Quixote lay in a far sorrier plight than he liked,and having helped him to mount Rocinante, he said to him, "Senor,the devil has carried off my Dapple."

"What devil?" asked Don Quixote.

"The one with the bladders," said Sancho.

"Then I will recover him," said Don Quixote, "even if he be shutup with him in the deepest and darkest dungeons of hell. Follow me,Sancho, for the cart goes slowly, and with the mules of it I will makegood the loss of Dapple."

"You need not take the trouble, senor," said Sancho; "keep cool, foras I now see, the devil has let Dapple go and he is coming back to hisold quarters;" and so it turned out, for, having come down withDapple, in imitation of Don Quixote and Rocinante, the devil madeoff on foot to the town, and the ass came back to his master.

"For all that," said Don Quixote, "it will be well to visit thediscourtesy of that devil upon some of those in the cart, even if itwere the emperor himself."

"Don't think of it, your worship," returned Sancho; "take myadvice and never meddle with actors, for they are a favoured class;I myself have known an actor taken up for two murders, and yet comeoff scot-free; remember that, as they are merry folk who givepleasure, everyone favours and protects them, and helps and makes muchof them, above all when they are those of the royal companies andunder patent, all or most of whom in dress and appearance look likeprinces."

"Still, for all that," said Don Quixote, "the player devil mustnot go off boasting, even if the whole human race favours him."

So saying, he made for the cart, which was now very near the town,shouting out as he went, "Stay! halt! ye merry, jovial crew! I want toteach you how to treat asses and animals that serve the squires ofknights-errant for steeds."

So loud were the shouts of Don Quixote, that those in the cart heardand understood them, and, guessing by the words what the speaker'sintention was, Death in an instant jumped out of the cart, and theemperor, the devil carter and the angel after him, nor did the queenor the god Cupid stay behind; and all armed themselves with stones andformed in line, prepared to receive Don Quixote on the points of theirpebbles. Don Quixote, when he saw them drawn up in such a gallantarray with uplifted arms ready for a mighty discharge of stones,checked Rocinante and began to consider in what way he could attackthem with the least danger to himself. As he halted Sancho came up,and seeing him disposed to attack this well-ordered squadron, saidto him, "It would be the height of madness to attempt such anenterprise; remember, senor, that against sops from the brook, andplenty of them, there is no defensive armour in the world, except tostow oneself away under a brass bell; and besides, one should rememberthat it is rashness, and not valour, for a single man to attack anarmy that has Death in it, and where emperors fight in person, withangels, good and bad, to help them; and if this reflection will notmake you keep quiet, perhaps it will to know for certain that amongall these, though they look like kings, princes, and emperors, thereis not a single knight-errant."

"Now indeed thou hast hit the point, Sancho," said Don Quixote,"which may and should turn me from the resolution I had alreadyformed. I cannot and must not draw sword, as I have many a time beforetold thee, against anyone who is not a dubbed knight; it is forthee, Sancho, if thou wilt, to take vengeance for the wrong done tothy Dapple; and I will help thee from here by shouts and salutarycounsels."

"There is no occasion to take vengeance on anyone, senor," repliedSancho; "for it is not the part of good Christians to revengewrongs; and besides, I will arrange it with my ass to leave hisgrievance to my good-will and pleasure, and that is to live in peaceas long as heaven grants me life."

"Well," said Don Quixote, "if that be thy determination, goodSancho, sensible Sancho, Christian Sancho, honest Sancho, let us leavethese phantoms alone and turn to the pursuit of better and worthieradventures; for, from what I see of this country, we cannot fail tofind plenty of marvellous ones in it."

He at once wheeled about, Sancho ran to take possession of hisDapple, Death and his flying squadron returned to their cart andpursued their journey, and thus the dread adventure of the cart ofDeath ended happily, thanks to the advice Sancho gave his master;who had, the following day, a fresh adventure, of no less thrillinginterest than the last, with an enamoured knight-errant.



The night succeeding the day of the encounter with Death, DonQuixote and his squire passed under some tall shady trees, and DonQuixote at Sancho's persuasion ate a little from the store carriedby Dapple, and over their supper Sancho said to his master, "Senor,what a fool I should have looked if I had chosen for my reward thespoils of the first adventure your worship achieved, instead of thefoals of the three mares. After all, 'a sparrow in the hand isbetter than a vulture on the wing.'"

"At the same time, Sancho," replied Don Quixote, "if thou hadstlet me attack them as I wanted, at the very least the emperor's goldcrown and Cupid's painted wings would have fallen to thee as spoils,for I should have taken them by force and given them into thy hands."

"The sceptres and crowns of those play-actor emperors," said Sancho,"were never yet pure gold, but only brass foil or tin."

"That is true," said Don Quixote, "for it would not be right thatthe accessories of the drama should be real, instead of being merefictions and semblances, like the drama itself; towards which, Sancho-and, as a necessary consequence, towards those who represent andproduce it- I would that thou wert favourably disposed, for they areall instruments of great good to the State, placing before us at everystep a mirror in which we may see vividly displayed what goes on inhuman life; nor is there any similitude that shows us morefaithfully what we are and ought to be than the play and theplayers. Come, tell me, hast thou not seen a play acted in whichkings, emperors, pontiffs, knights, ladies, and divers otherpersonages were introduced? One plays the villain, another theknave, this one the merchant, that the soldier, one the sharp-wittedfool, another the foolish lover; and when the play is over, and theyhave put off the dresses they wore in it, all the actors becomeequal."

"Yes, I have seen that," said Sancho.

"Well then," said Don Quixote, "the same thing happens in the comedyand life of this world, where some play emperors, others popes, and,in short, all the characters that can be brought into a play; but whenit is over, that is to say when life ends, death strips them all ofthe garments that distinguish one from the other, and all are equal inthe grave."

"A fine comparison!" said Sancho; "though not so new but that I haveheard it many and many a time, as well as that other one of the gameof chess; how, so long as the game lasts, each piece has its ownparticular office, and when the game is finished they are all mixed,jumbled up and shaken together, and stowed away in the bag, which ismuch like ending life in the grave."

"Thou art growing less doltish and more shrewd every day, Sancho,"said Don Quixote.

"Ay," said Sancho; "it must be that some of your worship'sshrewdness sticks to me; land that, of itself, is barren and dry, willcome to yield good fruit if you dung it and till it; what I mean isthat your worship's conversation has been the dung that has fallenon the barren soil of my dry wit, and the time I have been in yourservice and society has been the tillage; and with the help of thisI hope to yield fruit in abundance that will not fall away or slidefrom those paths of good breeding that your worship has made in myparched understanding."

Title: Don Quixote
Author: Miqeul de Cervantes
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