Miqeul de Cervantes >> Don Quixote (page 74)

The canon was amazed to hear the medley of truth and fiction DonQuixote uttered, and to see how well acquainted he was with everythingrelating or belonging to the achievements of his knight-errantry; sohe said in reply:

"I cannot deny, Senor Don Quixote, that there is some truth inwhat you say, especially as regards the Spanish knights-errant; andI am willing to grant too that the Twelve Peers of France existed, butI am not disposed to believe that they did all the things that theArchbishop Turpin relates of them. For the truth of the matter is theywere knights chosen by the kings of France, and called 'Peers' becausethey were all equal in worth, rank and prowess (at least if theywere not they ought to have been), and it was a kind of religiousorder like those of Santiago and Calatrava in the present day, inwhich it is assumed that those who take it are valiant knights ofdistinction and good birth; and just as we say now a Knight of St.John, or of Alcantara, they used to say then a Knight of the TwelvePeers, because twelve equals were chosen for that military order. Thatthere was a Cid, as well as a Bernardo del Carpio, there can be nodoubt; but that they did the deeds people say they did, I hold to bevery doubtful. In that other matter of the pin of Count Pierres thatyou speak of, and say is near Babieca's saddle in the Armoury, Iconfess my sin; for I am either so stupid or so short-sighted, that,though I have seen the saddle, I have never been able to see thepin, in spite of it being as big as your worship says it is."

"For all that it is there, without any manner of doubt," said DonQuixote; "and more by token they say it is inclosed in a sheath ofcowhide to keep it from rusting."

"All that may be," replied the canon; "but, by the orders I havereceived, I do not remember seeing it. However, granting it isthere, that is no reason why I am bound to believe the stories ofall those Amadises and of all that multitude of knights they tell usabout, nor is it reasonable that a man like your worship, so worthy,and with so many good qualities, and endowed with such a goodunderstanding, should allow himself to be persuaded that such wildcrazy things as are written in those absurd books of chivalry arereally true."



"A good joke, that!" returned Don Quixote. "Books that have beenprinted with the king's licence, and with the approbation of thoseto whom they have been submitted, and read with universal delight, andextolled by great and small, rich and poor, learned and ignorant,gentle and simple, in a word by people of every sort, of whatever rankor condition they may be- that these should be lies! And above allwhen they carry such an appearance of truth with them; for they tellus the father, mother, country, kindred, age, place, and theachievements, step by step, and day by day, performed by such a knightor knights! Hush, sir; utter not such blasphemy; trust me I amadvising you now to act as a sensible man should; only read them,and you will see the pleasure you will derive from them. For, come,tell me, can there be anything more delightful than to see, as itwere, here now displayed before us a vast lake of bubbling pitchwith a host of snakes and serpents and lizards, and ferocious andterrible creatures of all sorts swimming about in it, while from themiddle of the lake there comes a plaintive voice saying: 'Knight,whosoever thou art who beholdest this dread lake, if thou wouldstwin the prize that lies hidden beneath these dusky waves, prove thevalour of thy stout heart and cast thyself into the midst of itsdark burning waters, else thou shalt not be worthy to see the mightywonders contained in the seven castles of the seven Fays that liebeneath this black expanse;' and then the knight, almost ere the awfulvoice has ceased, without stopping to consider, without pausing toreflect upon the danger to which he is exposing himself, withouteven relieving himself of the weight of his massive armour, commendinghimself to God and to his lady, plunges into the midst of theboiling lake, and when he little looks for it, or knows what hisfate is to be, he finds himself among flowery meadows, with whichthe Elysian fields are not to be compared. The sky seems moretransparent there, and the sun shines with a strange brilliancy, and adelightful grove of green leafy trees presents itself to the eyesand charms the sight with its verdure, while the ear is soothed by thesweet untutored melody of the countless birds of gay plumage that flitto and fro among the interlacing branches. Here he sees a brookwhose limpid waters, like liquid crystal, ripple over fine sands andwhite pebbles that look like sifted gold and purest pearls. There heperceives a cunningly wrought fountain of many-coloured jasper andpolished marble; here another of rustic fashion where the littlemussel-shells and the spiral white and yellow mansions of the snaildisposed in studious disorder, mingled with fragments of glitteringcrystal and mock emeralds, make up a work of varied aspect, where art,imitating nature, seems to have outdone it. Suddenly there ispresented to his sight a strong castle or gorgeous palace with wallsof massy gold, turrets of diamond and gates of jacinth; in short, somarvellous is its structure that though the materials of which it isbuilt are nothing less than diamonds, carbuncles, rubies, pearls,gold, and emeralds, the workmanship is still more rare. And afterhaving seen all this, what can be more charming than to see how a bevyof damsels comes forth from the gate of the castle in gay and gorgeousattire, such that, were I to set myself now to depict it as thehistories describe it to us, I should never have done; and then howshe who seems to be the first among them all takes the bold knight whoplunged into the boiling lake by the hand, and without addressing aword to him leads him into the rich palace or castle, and strips himas naked as when his mother bore him, and bathes him in lukewarmwater, and anoints him all over with sweet-smelling unguents, andclothes him in a shirt of the softest sendal, all scented andperfumed, while another damsel comes and throws over his shoulders amantle which is said to be worth at the very least a city, and evenmore? How charming it is, then, when they tell us how, after all this,they lead him to another chamber where he finds the tables set outin such style that he is filled with amazement and wonder; to seehow they pour out water for his hands distilled from amber andsweet-scented flowers; how they seat him on an ivory chair; to see howthe damsels wait on him all in profound silence; how they bring himsuch a variety of dainties so temptingly prepared that the appetite isat a loss which to select; to hear the music that resounds while he isat table, by whom or whence produced he knows not. And then when therepast is over and the tables removed, for the knight to recline inthe chair, picking his teeth perhaps as usual, and a damsel, muchlovelier than any of the others, to enter unexpectedly by thechamber door, and herself by his side, and begin to tell him whatthe castle is, and how she is held enchanted there, and other thingsthat amaze the knight and astonish the readers who are perusing hishistory. But I will not expatiate any further upon this, as it maybe gathered from it that whatever part of whatever history of aknight-errant one reads, it will fill the reader, whoever he be,with delight and wonder; and take my advice, sir, and, as I saidbefore, read these books and you will see how they will banish anymelancholy you may feel and raise your spirits should they bedepressed. For myself I can say that since I have been a knight-errantI have become valiant, polite, generous, well-bred, magnanimous,courteous, dauntless, gentle, patient, and have learned to bearhardships, imprisonments, and enchantments; and though it be such ashort time since I have seen myself shut up in a cage like a madman, Ihope by the might of my arm, if heaven aid me and fortune thwart menot, to see myself king of some kingdom where I may be able to showthe gratitude and generosity that dwell in my heart; for by myfaith, senor, the poor man is incapacitated from showing the virtue ofgenerosity to anyone, though he may possess it in the highestdegree; and gratitude that consists of disposition only is a deadthing, just as faith without works is dead. For this reason I shouldbe glad were fortune soon to offer me some opportunity of makingmyself an emperor, so as to show my heart in doing good to my friends,particularly to this poor Sancho Panza, my squire, who is the bestfellow in the world; and I would gladly give him a county I havepromised him this ever so long, only that I am afraid he has not thecapacity to govern his realm."

Sancho partly heard these last words of his master, and said to him,"Strive hard you, Senor Don Quixote, to give me that county so oftenpromised by you and so long looked for by me, for I promise youthere will be no want of capacity in me to govern it; and even ifthere is, I have heard say there are men in the world who farmseigniories, paying so much a year, and they themselves takingcharge of the government, while the lord, with his legs stretched out,enjoys the revenue they pay him, without troubling himself aboutanything else. That's what I'll do, and not stand haggling overtrifles, but wash my hands at once of the whole business, and enjoy myrents like a duke, and let things go their own way."

"That, brother Sancho," said the canon, "only holds good as far asthe enjoyment of the revenue goes; but the lord of the seigniorymust attend to the administration of justice, and here capacity andsound judgment come in, and above all a firm determination to find outthe truth; for if this be wanting in the beginning, the middle and theend will always go wrong; and God as commonly aids the honestintentions of the simple as he frustrates the evil designs of thecrafty."

"I don't understand those philosophies," returned Sancho Panza; "allI know is I would I had the county as soon as I shall know how togovern it; for I have as much soul as another, and as much body asanyone, and I shall be as much king of my realm as any other of his;and being so I should do as I liked, and doing as I liked I shouldplease myself, and pleasing myself I should be content, and when oneis content he has nothing more to desire, and when one has nothingmore to desire there is an end of it; so let the county come, andGod he with you, and let us see one another, as one blind man saidto the other."

"That is not bad philosophy thou art talking, Sancho," said thecanon; "but for all that there is a good deal to be said on thismatter of counties."

To which Don Quixote returned, "I know not what more there is tobe said; I only guide myself by the example set me by the great Amadisof Gaul, when he made his squire count of the Insula Firme; and so,without any scruples of conscience, I can make a count of SanchoPanza, for he is one of the best squires that ever knight-errant had."

The canon was astonished at the methodical nonsense (if nonsensebe capable of method) that Don Quixote uttered, at the way in which hehad described the adventure of the knight of the lake, at theimpression that the deliberate lies of the books he read had made uponhim, and lastly he marvelled at the simplicity of Sancho, whodesired so eagerly to obtain the county his master had promised him.

By this time the canon's servants, who had gone to the inn tofetch the sumpter mule, had returned, and making a carpet and thegreen grass of the meadow serve as a table, they seated themselvesin the shade of some trees and made their repast there, that thecarter might not be deprived of the advantage of the spot, as has beenalready said. As they were eating they suddenly heard a loud noise andthe sound of a bell that seemed to come from among some brambles andthick bushes that were close by, and the same instant they observeda beautiful goat, spotted all over black, white, and brown, spring outof the thicket with a goatherd after it, calling to it and utteringthe usual cries to make it stop or turn back to the fold. The fugitivegoat, scared and frightened, ran towards the company as if seekingtheir protection and then stood still, and the goatherd coming upseized it by the horns and began to talk to it as if it were possessedof reason and understanding: "Ah wanderer, wanderer, Spotty, Spotty;how have you gone limping all this time? What wolves have frightenedyou, my daughter? Won't you tell me what is the matter, my beauty? Butwhat else can it be except that you are a she, and cannot keepquiet? A plague on your humours and the humours of those you takeafter! Come back, come back, my darling; and if you will not be sohappy, at any rate you will be safe in the fold or with yourcompanions; for if you who ought to keep and lead them, go wanderingastray, what will become of them?"

The goatherd's talk amused all who heard it, but especially thecanon, who said to him, "As you live, brother, take it easy, and benot in such a hurry to drive this goat back to the fold; for, beinga female, as you say, she will follow her natural instinct in spite ofall you can do to prevent it. Take this morsel and drink a sup, andthat will soothe your irritation, and in the meantime the goat willrest herself," and so saying, he handed him the loins of a cold rabbiton a fork.

The goatherd took it with thanks, and drank and calmed himself,and then said, "I should be sorry if your worships were to take me fora simpleton for having spoken so seriously as I did to this animal;but the truth is there is a certain mystery in the words I used. Iam a clown, but not so much of one but that I know how to behave tomen and to beasts."

"That I can well believe," said the curate, "for I know already byexperience that the woods breed men of learning, and shepherds'harbour philosophers."

"At all events, senor," returned the goatherd, "they shelter menof experience; and that you may see the truth of this and grasp it,though I may seem to put myself forward without being asked, I will,if it will not tire you, gentlemen, and you will give me yourattention for a little, tell you a true story which will confirmthis gentleman's word (and he pointed to the curate) as well as myown."

Title: Don Quixote
Author: Miqeul de Cervantes
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