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Miqeul de Cervantes >> Don Quixote (page 94)


"Give me that helmet, my friend, for either I know little ofadventures, or what I observe yonder is one that will, and does,call upon me to arm myself."

He of the green gaban, on hearing this, looked in all directions,but could perceive nothing, except a cart coming towards them with twoor three small flags, which led him to conclude it must be carryingtreasure of the King's, and he said so to Don Quixote. He, however,would not believe him, being always persuaded and convinced that allthat happened to him must be adventures and still more adventures;so he replied to the gentleman, "He who is prepared has his battlehalf fought; nothing is lost by my preparing myself, for I know byexperience that I have enemies, visible and invisible, and I knownot when, or where, or at what moment, or in what shapes they willattack me;" and turning to Sancho he called for his helmet; andSancho, as he had no time to take out the curds, had to give it justas it was. Don Quixote took it, and without perceiving what was init thrust it down in hot haste upon his head; but as the curds werepressed and squeezed the whey began to run all over his face andbeard, whereat he was so startled that he cried out to Sancho:

"Sancho, what's this? I think my head is softening, or my brains aremelting, or I am sweating from head to foot! If I am sweating it isnot indeed from fear. I am convinced beyond a doubt that the adventurewhich is about to befall me is a terrible one. Give me something towipe myself with, if thou hast it, for this profuse sweat isblinding me."

Sancho held his tongue, and gave him a cloth, and gave thanks to Godat the same time that his master had not found out what was thematter. Don Quixote then wiped himself, and took off his helmet to seewhat it was that made his head feel so cool, and seeing all that whitemash inside his helmet he put it to his nose, and as soon as he hadsmelt it he exclaimed:

"By the life of my lady Dulcinea del Toboso, but it is curds thouhast put here, thou treacherous, impudent, ill-mannered squire!"

To which, with great composure and pretended innocence, Sanchoreplied, "If they are curds let me have them, your worship, and I'lleat them; but let the devil eat them, for it must have been he who putthem there. I dare to dirty your helmet! You have guessed the offenderfinely! Faith, sir, by the light God gives me, it seems I must haveenchanters too, that persecute me as a creature and limb of yourworship, and they must have put that nastiness there in order toprovoke your patience to anger, and make you baste my ribs as youare wont to do. Well, this time, indeed, they have missed their aim,for I trust to my master's good sense to see that I have got nocurds or milk, or anything of the sort; and that if I had it is inmy stomach I would put it and not in the helmet."

"May he so," said Don Quixote. All this the gentleman was observing,and with astonishment, more especially when, after having wipedhimself clean, his head, face, beard, and helmet, Don Quixote put iton, and settling himself firmly in his stirrups, easing his sword inthe scabbard, and grasping his lance, he cried, "Now, come who will,here am I, ready to try conclusions with Satan himself in person!"

By this time the cart with the flags had come up, unattended byanyone except the carter on a mule, and a man sitting in front. DonQuixote planted himself before it and said, "Whither are you going,brothers? What cart is this? What have you got in it? What flags arethose?"

To this the carter replied, "The cart is mine; what is in it is apair of wild caged lions, which the governor of Oran is sending tocourt as a present to his Majesty; and the flags are our lord theKing's, to show that what is here is his property."

"And are the lions large?" asked Don Quixote.

"So large," replied the man who sat at the door of the cart, "thatlarger, or as large, have never crossed from Africa to Spain; I am thekeeper, and I have brought over others, but never any like these. Theyare male and female; the male is in that first cage and the femalein the one behind, and they are hungry now, for they have eatennothing to-day, so let your worship stand aside, for we must makehaste to the place where we are to feed them."

Hereupon, smiling slightly, Don Quixote exclaimed, "Lion-whelps tome! to me whelps of lions, and at such a time! Then, by God! thosegentlemen who send them here shall see if I am a man to befrightened by lions. Get down, my good fellow, and as you are thekeeper open the cages, and turn me out those beasts, and in themidst of this plain I will let them know who Don Quixote of LaMancha is, in spite and in the teeth of the enchanters who send themto me."

"So, so," said the gentleman to himself at this; "our worthyknight has shown of what sort he is; the curds, no doubt, havesoftened his skull and brought his brains to a head."

At this instant Sancho came up to him, saying, "Senor, for God'ssake do something to keep my master, Don Quixote, from tacklingthese lions; for if he does they'll tear us all to pieces here."

"Is your master then so mad," asked the gentleman, "that you believeand are afraid he will engage such fierce animals?"

"He is not mad," said Sancho, "but he is venturesome."

"I will prevent it," said the gentleman; and going over to DonQuixote, who was insisting upon the keeper's opening the cages, hesaid to him, "Sir knight, knights-errant should attempt adventureswhich encourage the hope of a successful issue, not those whichentirely withhold it; for valour that trenches upon temerity savoursrather of madness than of courage; moreover, these lions do not cometo oppose you, nor do they dream of such a thing; they are going aspresents to his Majesty, and it will not be right to stop them ordelay their journey."

"Gentle sir," replied Don Quixote, "you go and mind your tamepartridge and your bold ferret, and leave everyone to manage his ownbusiness; this is mine, and I know whether these gentlemen the lionscome to me or not;" and then turning to the keeper he exclaimed, "Byall that's good, sir scoundrel, if you don't open the cages thisvery instant, I'll pin you to the cart with this lance."

The carter, seeing the determination of this apparition in armour,said to him, "Please your worship, for charity's sake, senor, let meunyoke the mules and place myself in safety along with them before thelions are turned out; for if they kill them on me I am ruined forlife, for all I possess is this cart and mules."

"O man of little faith," replied Don Quixote, "get down andunyoke; you will soon see that you are exerting yourself fornothing, and that you might have spared yourself the trouble."

The carter got down and with all speed unyoked the mules, and thekeeper called out at the top of his voice, "I call all here to witnessthat against my will and under compulsion I open the cages and let thelions loose, and that I warn this gentleman that he will beaccountable for all the harm and mischief which these beasts may do,and for my salary and dues as well. You, gentlemen, place yourselvesin safety before I open, for I know they will do me no harm."

Once more the gentleman strove to persuade Don Quixote not to dosuch a mad thing, as it was tempting God to engage in such a pieceof folly. To this, Don Quixote replied that he knew what he was about.The gentleman in return entreated him to reflect, for he knew he wasunder a delusion.

"Well, senor," answered Don Quixote, "if you do not like to be aspectator of this tragedy, as in your opinion it will be, spur yourflea-bitten mare, and place yourself in safety."

Hearing this, Sancho with tears in his eyes entreated him to give upan enterprise compared with which the one of the windmills, and theawful one of the fulling mills, and, in fact, all the feats he hadattempted in the whole course of his life, were cakes and fancy bread."Look ye, senor," said Sancho, "there's no enchantment here, noranything of the sort, for between the bars and chinks of the cage Ihave seen the paw of a real lion, and judging by that I reckon thelion such a paw could belong to must be bigger than a mountain."

"Fear at any rate," replied Don Quixote, "will make him lookbigger to thee than half the world. Retire, Sancho, and leave me;and if I die here thou knowest our old compact; thou wilt repair toDulcinea- I say no more." To these he added some further words thatbanished all hope of his giving up his insane project. He of the greengaban would have offered resistance, but he found himselfill-matched as to arms, and did not think it prudent to come toblows with a madman, for such Don Quixote now showed himself to bein every respect; and the latter, renewing his commands to thekeeper and repeating his threats, gave warning to the gentleman tospur his mare, Sancho his Dapple, and the carter his mules, allstriving to get away from the cart as far as they could before thelions broke loose. Sancho was weeping over his master's death, forthis time he firmly believed it was in store for him from the claws ofthe lions; and he cursed his fate and called it an unlucky hour whenhe thought of taking service with him again; but with all his tearsand lamentations he did not forget to thrash Dapple so as to put agood space between himself and the cart. The keeper, seeing that thefugitives were now some distance off, once more entreated and warnedhim as before; but he replied that he heard him, and that he neednot trouble himself with any further warnings or entreaties, as theywould be fruitless, and bade him make haste.

During the delay that occurred while the keeper was opening thefirst cage, Don Quixote was considering whether it would not be wellto do battle on foot, instead of on horseback, and finally resolved tofight on foot, fearing that Rocinante might take fright at the sightof the lions; he therefore sprang off his horse, flung his lanceaside, braced his buckler on his arm, and drawing his sword,advanced slowly with marvellous intrepidity and resolute courage, toplant himself in front of the cart, commending himself with all hisheart to God and to his lady Dulcinea.

It is to be observed, that on coming to this passage, the authorof this veracious history breaks out into exclamations. "O doughty DonQuixote! high-mettled past extolling! Mirror, wherein all the heroesof the world may see themselves! Second modern Don Manuel de Leon,once the glory and honour of Spanish knighthood! In what words shall Idescribe this dread exploit, by what language shall I make it credibleto ages to come, what eulogies are there unmeet for thee, thoughthey be hyperboles piled on hyperboles! On foot, alone, undaunted,high-souled, with but a simple sword, and that no trenchant blade ofthe Perrillo brand, a shield, but no bright polished steel one,there stoodst thou, biding and awaiting the two fiercest lions thatAfrica's forests ever bred! Thy own deeds be thy praise, valiantManchegan, and here I leave them as they stand, wanting the wordswherewith to glorify them!"

Here the author's outburst came to an end, and he proceeded totake up the thread of his story, saying that the keeper, seeing thatDon Quixote had taken up his position, and that it was impossiblefor him to avoid letting out the male without incurring the enmityof the fiery and daring knight, flung open the doors of the firstcage, containing, as has been said, the lion, which was now seen to beof enormous size, and grim and hideous mien. The first thing he didwas to turn round in the cage in which he lay, and protrude his claws,and stretch himself thoroughly; he next opened his mouth, and yawnedvery leisurely, and with near two palms' length of tongue that hehad thrust forth, he licked the dust out of his eyes and washed hisface; having done this, he put his head out of the cage and looked allround with eyes like glowing coals, a spectacle and demeanour tostrike terror into temerity itself. Don Quixote merely observed himsteadily, longing for him to leap from the cart and come to closequarters with him, when he hoped to hew him in pieces.

So far did his unparalleled madness go; but the noble lion, morecourteous than arrogant, not troubling himself about silly bravado,after having looked all round, as has been said, turned about andpresented his hind-quarters to Don Quixote, and very coolly andtranquilly lay down again in the cage. Seeing this, Don Quixoteordered the keeper to take a stick to him and provoke him to makehim come out.

"That I won't," said the keeper; "for if I anger him, the firsthe'll tear in pieces will be myself. Be satisfied, sir knight, withwhat you have done, which leaves nothing more to be said on thescore of courage, and do not seek to tempt fortune a second time.The lion has the door open; he is free to come out or not to come out;but as he has not come out so far, he will not come out to-day. Yourworship's great courage has been fully manifested already; no bravechampion, so it strikes me, is bound to do more than challenge hisenemy and wait for him on the field; if his adversary does not come,on him lies the disgrace, and he who waits for him carries off thecrown of victory."

"That is true," said Don Quixote; "close the door, my friend, andlet me have, in the best form thou canst, what thou hast seen me do,by way of certificate; to wit, that thou didst open for the lion, thatI waited for him, that he did not come out, that I still waited forhim, and that still he did not come out, and lay down again. I amnot bound to do more; enchantments avaunt, and God uphold the right,the truth, and true chivalry! Close the door as I bade thee, while Imake signals to the fugitives that have left us, that they may learnthis exploit from thy lips."

The keeper obeyed, and Don Quixote, fixing on the point of his lancethe cloth he had wiped his face with after the deluge of curds,proceeded to recall the others, who still continued to fly, lookingback at every step, all in a body, the gentleman bringing up the rear.Sancho, however, happening to observe the signal of the white cloth,exclaimed, "May I die, if my master has not overcome the wildbeasts, for he is calling to us."

Title: Don Quixote
Author: Miqeul de Cervantes
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