Miqeul de Cervantes >> Don Quixote (page 44)

"From this spot I will not rise, valiant and doughty knight, untilyour goodness and courtesy grant me a boon, which will redound tothe honour and renown of your person and render a service to themost disconsolate and afflicted damsel the sun has seen; and if themight of your strong arm corresponds to the repute of your immortalfame, you are bound to aid the helpless being who, led by the savourof your renowned name, hath come from far distant lands to seek youraid in her misfortunes."

"I will not answer a word, beauteous lady," replied Don Quixote,"nor will I listen to anything further concerning you, until yourise from the earth."

"I will not rise, senor," answered the afflicted damsel, "unlessof your courtesy the boon I ask is first granted me."

"I grant and accord it," said Don Quixote, "provided withoutdetriment or prejudice to my king, my country, or her who holds thekey of my heart and freedom, it may be complied with."

"It will not be to the detriment or prejudice of any of them, myworthy lord," said the afflicted damsel; and here Sancho Panza drewclose to his master's ear and said to him very softly, "Your worshipmay very safely grant the boon she asks; it's nothing at all; onlyto kill a big giant; and she who asks it is the exalted PrincessMicomicona, queen of the great kingdom of Micomicon of Ethiopia."

"Let her be who she may," replied Don Quixote, "I will do what is mybounden duty, and what my conscience bids me, in conformity withwhat I have professed;" and turning to the damsel he said, "Let yourgreat beauty rise, for I grant the boon which you would ask of me."

"Then what I ask," said the damsel, "is that your magnanimous personaccompany me at once whither I will conduct you, and that youpromise not to engage in any other adventure or quest until you haveavenged me of a traitor who against all human and divine law, hasusurped my kingdom."

"I repeat that I grant it," replied Don Quixote; "and so, lady,you may from this day forth lay aside the melancholy that distressesyou, and let your failing hopes gather new life and strength, for withthe help of God and of my arm you will soon see yourself restored toyour kingdom, and seated upon the throne of your ancient and mightyrealm, notwithstanding and despite of the felons who would gainsay it;and now hands to the work, for in delay there is apt to be danger."

The distressed damsel strove with much pertinacity to kiss hishands; but Don Quixote, who was in all things a polished and courteousknight, would by no means allow it, but made her rise and embraced herwith great courtesy and politeness, and ordered Sancho to look toRocinante's girths, and to arm him without a moment's delay. Sanchotook down the armour, which was hung up on a tree like a trophy, andhaving seen to the girths armed his master in a trice, who as soonas he found himself in his armour exclaimed:

"Let us be gone in the name of God to bring aid to this great lady."

The barber was all this time on his knees at great pains to hide hislaughter and not let his beard fall, for had it fallen maybe theirfine scheme would have come to nothing; but now seeing the boongranted, and the promptitude with which Don Quixote prepared to setout in compliance with it, he rose and took his lady's hand, andbetween them they placed her upon the mule. Don Quixote then mountedRocinante, and the barber settled himself on his beast, Sancho beingleft to go on foot, which made him feel anew the loss of his Dapple,finding the want of him now. But he bore all with cheerfulness,being persuaded that his master had now fairly started and was just onthe point of becoming an emperor; for he felt no doubt at all thathe would marry this princess, and be king of Micomicon at least. Theonly thing that troubled him was the reflection that this kingdomwas in the land of the blacks, and that the people they would give himfor vassals would be all black; but for this he soon found a remedy inhis fancy, and said he to himself, "What is it to me if my vassals areblacks? What more have I to do than make a cargo of them and carrythem to Spain, where I can sell them and get ready money for them, andwith it buy some title or some office in which to live at ease all thedays of my life? Not unless you go to sleep and haven't the wit orskill to turn things to account and sell three, six, or ten thousandvassals while you would he talking about it! By God I will stir themup, big and little, or as best I can, and let them be ever so blackI'll turn them into white or yellow. Come, come, what a fool I am!"And so he jogged on, so occupied with his thoughts and easy in hismind that he forgot all about the hardship of travelling on foot.

Cardenio and the curate were watching all this from among somebushes, not knowing how to join company with the others; but thecurate, who was very fertile in devices, soon hit upon a way ofeffecting their purpose, and with a pair of scissors he had in acase he quickly cut off Cardenio's beard, and putting on him a greyjerkin of his own he gave him a black cloak, leaving himself in hisbreeches and doublet, while Cardenio's appearance was so differentfrom what it had been that he would not have known himself had he seenhimself in a mirror. Having effected this, although the others hadgone on ahead while they were disguising themselves, they easilycame out on the high road before them, for the brambles and awkwardplaces they encountered did not allow those on horseback to go as fastas those on foot. They then posted themselves on the level ground atthe outlet of the Sierra, and as soon as Don Quixote and hiscompanions emerged from it the curate began to examine him verydeliberately, as though he were striving to recognise him, and afterhaving stared at him for some time he hastened towards him with openarms exclaiming, "A happy meeting with the mirror of chivalry, myworthy compatriot Don Quixote of La Mancha, the flower and cream ofhigh breeding, the protection and relief of the distressed, thequintessence of knights-errant!" And so saying he clasped in hisarms the knee of Don Quixote's left leg. He, astonished at thestranger's words and behaviour, looked at him attentively, and atlength recognised him, very much surprised to see him there, andmade great efforts to dismount. This, however, the curate would notallow, on which Don Quixote said, "Permit me, senor licentiate, for itis not fitting that I should be on horseback and so reverend aperson as your worship on foot."

"On no account will I allow it," said the curate; "your mightinessmust remain on horseback, for it is on horseback you achieve thegreatest deeds and adventures that have been beheld in our age; as forme, an unworthy priest, it will serve me well enough to mount on thehaunches of one of the mules of these gentlefolk who accompany yourworship, if they have no objection, and I will fancy I am mounted onthe steed Pegasus, or on the zebra or charger that bore the famousMoor, Muzaraque, who to this day lies enchanted in the great hill ofZulema, a little distance from the great Complutum."

"Nor even that will I consent to, senor licentiate," answered DonQuixote, "and I know it will be the good pleasure of my lady theprincess, out of love for me, to order her squire to give up thesaddle of his mule to your worship, and he can sit behind if the beastwill bear it."

"It will, I am sure," said the princess, "and I am sure, too, that Ineed not order my squire, for he is too courteous and considerate toallow a Churchman to go on foot when he might be mounted."

"That he is," said the barber, and at once alighting, he offered hissaddle to the curate, who accepted it without much entreaty; butunfortunately as the barber was mounting behind, the mule, being as ithappened a hired one, which is the same thing as sayingill-conditioned, lifted its hind hoofs and let fly a couple of kicksin the air, which would have made Master Nicholas wish hisexpedition in quest of Don Quixote at the devil had they caught him onthe breast or head. As it was, they so took him by surprise that hecame to the ground, giving so little heed to his beard that it felloff, and all he could do when he found himself without it was to coverhis face hastily with both his hands and moan that his teeth wereknocked out. Don Quixote when he saw all that bundle of bearddetached, without jaws or blood, from the face of the fallen squire,exclaimed:

"By the living God, but this is a great miracle! it has knockedoff and plucked away the beard from his face as if it had beenshaved off designedly."

The curate, seeing the danger of discovery that threatened hisscheme, at once pounced upon the beard and hastened with it to whereMaster Nicholas lay, still uttering moans, and drawing his head to hisbreast had it on in an instant, muttering over him some words which hesaid were a certain special charm for sticking on beards, as theywould see; and as soon as he had it fixed he left him, and thesquire appeared well bearded and whole as before, whereat DonQuixote was beyond measure astonished, and begged the curate toteach him that charm when he had an opportunity, as he was persuadedits virtue must extend beyond the sticking on of beards, for it wasclear that where the beard had been stripped off the flesh must haveremained torn and lacerated, and when it could heal all that it mustbe good for more than beards.

"And so it is," said the curate, and he promised to teach it tohim on the first opportunity. They then agreed that for the presentthe curate should mount, and that the three should ride by turns untilthey reached the inn, which might be about six leagues from where theywere.

Three then being mounted, that is to say, Don Quixote, the princess,and the curate, and three on foot, Cardenio, the barber, and SanchoPanza, Don Quixote said to the damsel:

"Let your highness, lady, lead on whithersoever is most pleasingto you;" but before she could answer the licentiate said:

"Towards what kingdom would your ladyship direct our course? Is itperchance towards that of Micomicon? It must be, or else I know littleabout kingdoms."

She, being ready on all points, understood that she was to answer"Yes," so she said "Yes, senor, my way lies towards that kingdom."

"In that case," said the curate, "we must pass right through myvillage, and there your worship will take the road to Cartagena, whereyou will be able to embark, fortune favouring; and if the wind be fairand the sea smooth and tranquil, in somewhat less than nine yearsyou may come in sight of the great lake Meona, I mean Meotides,which is little more than a hundred days' journey this side of yourhighness's kingdom."

"Your worship is mistaken, senor," said she; "for it is not twoyears since I set out from it, and though I never had good weather,nevertheless I am here to behold what I so longed for, and that ismy lord Don Quixote of La Mancha, whose fame came to my ears as soonas I set foot in Spain and impelled me to go in search of him, tocommend myself to his courtesy, and entrust the justice of my cause tothe might of his invincible arm."

"Enough; no more praise," said Don Quixote at this, "for I hateall flattery; and though this may not be so, still language of thekind is offensive to my chaste ears. I will only say, senora, thatwhether it has might or not, that which it may or may not have shallbe devoted to your service even to death; and now, leaving this to itsproper season, I would ask the senor licentiate to tell me what itis that has brought him into these parts, alone, unattended, and solightly clad that I am filled with amazement."

"I will answer that briefly," replied the curate; "you must knowthen, Senor Don Quixote, that Master Nicholas, our friend andbarber, and I were going to Seville to receive some money that arelative of mine who went to the Indies many years ago had sent me,and not such a small sum but that it was over sixty thousand pieces ofeight, full weight, which is something; and passing by this placeyesterday we were attacked by four footpads, who stripped us even toour beards, and them they stripped off so that the barber found itnecessary to put on a false one, and even this young man here"-pointing to Cardenio- "they completely transformed. But the best of itis, the story goes in the neighbourhood that those who attacked usbelong to a number of galley slaves who, they say, were set freealmost on the very same spot by a man of such valour that, in spite ofthe commissary and of the guards, he released the whole of them; andbeyond all doubt he must have been out of his senses, or he must be asgreat a scoundrel as they, or some man without heart or conscienceto let the wolf loose among the sheep, the fox among the hens, the flyamong the honey. He has defrauded justice, and opposed his king andlawful master, for he opposed his just commands; he has, I say, robbedthe galleys of their feet, stirred up the Holy Brotherhood which formany years past has been quiet, and, lastly, has done a deed bywhich his soul may be lost without any gain to his body." Sancho hadtold the curate and the barber of the adventure of the galleyslaves, which, so much to his glory, his master had achieved, andhence the curate in alluding to it made the most of it to see whatwould be said or done by Don Quixote; who changed colour at everyword, not daring to say that it was he who had been the liberator ofthose worthy people. "These, then," said the curate, "were they whorobbed us; and God in his mercy pardon him who would not let them goto the punishment they deserved."



The curate had hardly ceased speaking, when Sancho said, "Infaith, then, senor licentiate, he who did that deed was my master; andit was not for want of my telling him beforehand and warning him tomind what he was about, and that it was a sin to set them atliberty, as they were all on the march there because they were specialscoundrels."

Title: Don Quixote
Author: Miqeul de Cervantes
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