Miqeul de Cervantes >> Don Quixote (page 9)

The first thing he did was to clean up some armour that had belongedto his great-grandfather, and had been for ages lying forgotten in acorner eaten with rust and covered with mildew. He scoured andpolished it as best he could, but he perceived one great defect in it,that it had no closed helmet, nothing but a simple morion. Thisdeficiency, however, his ingenuity supplied, for he contrived a kindof half-helmet of pasteboard which, fitted on to the morion, lookedlike a whole one. It is true that, in order to see if it was strongand fit to stand a cut, he drew his sword and gave it a couple ofslashes, the first of which undid in an instant what had taken him aweek to do. The ease with which he had knocked it to piecesdisconcerted him somewhat, and to guard against that danger he setto work again, fixing bars of iron on the inside until he wassatisfied with its strength; and then, not caring to try any moreexperiments with it, he passed it and adopted it as a helmet of themost perfect construction.

He next proceeded to inspect his hack, which, with more quartos thana real and more blemishes than the steed of Gonela, that "tantumpellis et ossa fuit," surpassed in his eyes the Bucephalus ofAlexander or the Babieca of the Cid. Four days were spent inthinking what name to give him, because (as he said to himself) it wasnot right that a horse belonging to a knight so famous, and one withsuch merits of his own, should be without some distinctive name, andhe strove to adapt it so as to indicate what he had been beforebelonging to a knight-errant, and what he then was; for it was onlyreasonable that, his master taking a new character, he should take anew name, and that it should be a distinguished and full-sounding one,befitting the new order and calling he was about to follow. And so,after having composed, struck out, rejected, added to, unmade, andremade a multitude of names out of his memory and fancy, he decidedupon calling him Rocinante, a name, to his thinking, lofty,sonorous, and significant of his condition as a hack before hebecame what he now was, the first and foremost of all the hacks in theworld.

Having got a name for his horse so much to his taste, he was anxiousto get one for himself, and he was eight days more pondering over thispoint, till at last he made up his mind to call himself "Don Quixote,"whence, as has been already said, the authors of this veracioushistory have inferred that his name must have been beyond a doubtQuixada, and not Quesada as others would have it. Recollecting,however, that the valiant Amadis was not content to call himselfcurtly Amadis and nothing more, but added the name of his kingdomand country to make it famous, and called himself Amadis of Gaul,he, like a good knight, resolved to add on the name of his, and tostyle himself Don Quixote of La Mancha, whereby, he considered, hedescribed accurately his origin and country, and did honour to it intaking his surname from it.

So then, his armour being furbished, his morion turned into ahelmet, his hack christened, and he himself confirmed, he came tothe conclusion that nothing more was needed now but to look out fora lady to be in love with; for a knight-errant without love was like atree without leaves or fruit, or a body without a soul. As he saidto himself, "If, for my sins, or by my good fortune, I come acrosssome giant hereabouts, a common occurrence with knights-errant, andoverthrow him in one onslaught, or cleave him asunder to the waist,or, in short, vanquish and subdue him, will it not be well to havesome one I may send him to as a present, that he may come in andfall on his knees before my sweet lady, and in a humble, submissivevoice say, 'I am the giant Caraculiambro, lord of the island ofMalindrania, vanquished in single combat by the never sufficientlyextolled knight Don Quixote of La Mancha, who has commanded me topresent myself before your Grace, that your Highness dispose of meat your pleasure'?" Oh, how our good gentleman enjoyed the delivery ofthis speech, especially when he had thought of some one to call hisLady! There was, so the story goes, in a village near his own a verygood-looking farm-girl with whom he had been at one time in love,though, so far as is known, she never knew it nor gave a thought tothe matter. Her name was Aldonza Lorenzo, and upon her he thoughtfit to confer the title of Lady of his Thoughts; and after some searchfor a name which should not be out of harmony with her own, and shouldsuggest and indicate that of a princess and great lady, he decidedupon calling her Dulcinea del Toboso -she being of El Toboso- a name,to his mind, musical, uncommon, and significant, like all those he hadalready bestowed upon himself and the things belonging to him.



These preliminaries settled, he did not care to put off any longerthe execution of his design, urged on to it by the thought of allthe world was losing by his delay, seeing what wrongs he intended toright, grievances to redress, injustices to repair, abuses toremove, and duties to discharge. So, without giving notice of hisintention to anyone, and without anybody seeing him, one morningbefore the dawning of the day (which was one of the hottest of themonth of July) he donned his suit of armour, mounted Rocinante withhis patched-up helmet on, braced his buckler, took his lance, and bythe back door of the yard sallied forth upon the plain in thehighest contentment and satisfaction at seeing with what ease he hadmade a beginning with his grand purpose. But scarcely did he findhimself upon the open plain, when a terrible thought struck him, oneall but enough to make him abandon the enterprise at the veryoutset. It occurred to him that he had not been dubbed a knight, andthat according to the law of chivalry he neither could nor ought tobear arms against any knight; and that even if he had been, still heought, as a novice knight, to wear white armour, without a device uponthe shield until by his prowess he had earned one. These reflectionsmade him waver in his purpose, but his craze being stronger than anyreasoning, he made up his mind to have himself dubbed a knight bythe first one he came across, following the example of others in thesame case, as he had read in the books that brought him to thispass. As for white armour, he resolved, on the first opportunity, toscour his until it was whiter than an ermine; and so comfortinghimself he pursued his way, taking that which his horse chose, forin this he believed lay the essence of adventures.

Thus setting out, our new-fledged adventurer paced along, talking tohimself and saying, "Who knows but that in time to come, when theveracious history of my famous deeds is made known, the sage whowrites it, when he has to set forth my first sally in the earlymorning, will do it after this fashion? 'Scarce had the rubicundApollo spread o'er the face of the broad spacious earth the goldenthreads of his bright hair, scarce had the little birds of paintedplumage attuned their notes to hail with dulcet and mellifluousharmony the coming of the rosy Dawn, that, deserting the soft couch ofher jealous spouse, was appearing to mortals at the gates andbalconies of the Manchegan horizon, when the renowned knight DonQuixote of La Mancha, quitting the lazy down, mounted his celebratedsteed Rocinante and began to traverse the ancient and famous Campode Montiel;'" which in fact he was actually traversing. "Happy theage, happy the time," he continued, "in which shall be made known mydeeds of fame, worthy to be moulded in brass, carved in marble, limnedin pictures, for a memorial for ever. And thou, O sage magician,whoever thou art, to whom it shall fall to be the chronicler of thiswondrous history, forget not, I entreat thee, my good Rocinante, theconstant companion of my ways and wanderings." Presently he brokeout again, as if he were love-stricken in earnest, "O PrincessDulcinea, lady of this captive heart, a grievous wrong hast thoudone me to drive me forth with scorn, and with inexorable obduracybanish me from the presence of thy beauty. O lady, deign to hold inremembrance this heart, thy vassal, that thus in anguish pines forlove of thee."

So he went on stringing together these and other absurdities, all inthe style of those his books had taught him, imitating theirlanguage as well as he could; and all the while he rode so slowlyand the sun mounted so rapidly and with such fervour that it wasenough to melt his brains if he had any. Nearly all day he travelledwithout anything remarkable happening to him, at which he was indespair, for he was anxious to encounter some one at once upon whom totry the might of his strong arm.

Writers there are who say the first adventure he met with was thatof Puerto Lapice; others say it was that of the windmills; but whatI have ascertained on this point, and what I have found written in theannals of La Mancha, is that he was on the road all day, and towardsnightfall his hack and he found themselves dead tired and hungry,when, looking all around to see if he could discover any castle orshepherd's shanty where he might refresh himself and relieve hissore wants, he perceived not far out of his road an inn, which wasas welcome as a star guiding him to the portals, if not the palaces,of his redemption; and quickening his pace he reached it just as nightwas setting in. At the door were standing two young women, girls ofthe district as they call them, on their way to Seville with somecarriers who had chanced to halt that night at the inn; and as, happenwhat might to our adventurer, everything he saw or imaged seemed tohim to be and to happen after the fashion of what he read of, themoment he saw the inn he pictured it to himself as a castle with itsfour turrets and pinnacles of shining silver, not forgetting thedrawbridge and moat and all the belongings usually ascribed to castlesof the sort. To this inn, which to him seemed a castle, he advanced,and at a short distance from it he checked Rocinante, hoping that somedwarf would show himself upon the battlements, and by sound of trumpetgive notice that a knight was approaching the castle. But seeingthat they were slow about it, and that Rocinante was in a hurry toreach the stable, he made for the inn door, and perceived the twogay damsels who were standing there, and who seemed to him to be twofair maidens or lovely ladies taking their ease at the castle gate.

At this moment it so happened that a swineherd who was going throughthe stubbles collecting a drove of pigs (for, without any apology,that is what they are called) gave a blast of his horn to bring themtogether, and forthwith it seemed to Don Quixote to be what he wasexpecting, the signal of some dwarf announcing his arrival; and sowith prodigious satisfaction he rode up to the inn and to theladies, who, seeing a man of this sort approaching in full armourand with lance and buckler, were turning in dismay into the inn,when Don Quixote, guessing their fear by their flight, raising hispasteboard visor, disclosed his dry dusty visage, and with courteousbearing and gentle voice addressed them, "Your ladyships need notfly or fear any rudeness, for that it belongs not to the order ofknighthood which I profess to offer to anyone, much less to highbornmaidens as your appearance proclaims you to be." The girls werelooking at him and straining their eyes to make out the features whichthe clumsy visor obscured, but when they heard themselves calledmaidens, a thing so much out of their line, they could not restraintheir laughter, which made Don Quixote wax indignant, and say,"Modesty becomes the fair, and moreover laughter that has little causeis great silliness; this, however, I say not to pain or anger you, formy desire is none other than to serve you."

The incomprehensible language and the unpromising looks of ourcavalier only increased the ladies' laughter, and that increased hisirritation, and matters might have gone farther if at that momentthe landlord had not come out, who, being a very fat man, was a verypeaceful one. He, seeing this grotesque figure clad in armour that didnot match any more than his saddle, bridle, lance, buckler, orcorselet, was not at all indisposed to join the damsels in theirmanifestations of amusement; but, in truth, standing in awe of sucha complicated armament, he thought it best to speak him fairly, sohe said, "Senor Caballero, if your worship wants lodging, bating thebed (for there is not one in the inn) there is plenty of everythingelse here." Don Quixote, observing the respectful bearing of theAlcaide of the fortress (for so innkeeper and inn seemed in his eyes),made answer, "Sir Castellan, for me anything will suffice, for

'My armour is my only wear,My only rest the fray.'"

The host fancied he called him Castellan because he took him for a"worthy of Castile," though he was in fact an Andalusian, and one fromthe strand of San Lucar, as crafty a thief as Cacus and as full oftricks as a student or a page. "In that case," said he,

"'Your bed is on the flinty rock,Your sleep to watch alway;'

and if so, you may dismount and safely reckon upon any quantity ofsleeplessness under this roof for a twelvemonth, not to say for asingle night." So saying, he advanced to hold the stirrup for DonQuixote, who got down with great difficulty and exertion (for he hadnot broken his fast all day), and then charged the host to takegreat care of his horse, as he was the best bit of flesh that ever atebread in this world. The landlord eyed him over but did not find himas good as Don Quixote said, nor even half as good; and putting him upin the stable, he returned to see what might be wanted by his guest,whom the damsels, who had by this time made their peace with him, werenow relieving of his armour. They had taken off his breastplate andbackpiece, but they neither knew nor saw how to open his gorget orremove his make-shift helmet, for he had fastened it with greenribbons, which, as there was no untying the knots, required to be cut.This, however, he would not by any means consent to, so he remainedall the evening with his helmet on, the drollest and oddest figurethat can be imagined; and while they were removing his armour,taking the baggages who were about it for ladies of high degreebelonging to the castle, he said to them with great sprightliness:

Title: Don Quixote
Author: Miqeul de Cervantes
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