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The History of Don Quixote, Vol. I., Part 17. by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

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Produced by David Widger


by Miguel de Cervantes

Translated by John Ormsby

Volume I.

Part 17.



"A good joke, that!" returned Don Quixote. "Books that have been printed
with the king's licence, and with the approbation of those to whom they
have been submitted, and read with universal delight, and extolled by
great and small, rich and poor, learned and ignorant, gentle and simple,
in a word by people of every sort, of whatever rank or condition they may
be--that these should be lies! And above all when they carry such an
appearance of truth with them; for they tell us the father, mother,
country, kindred, age, place, and the achievements, step by step, and day
by day, performed by such a knight or knights! Hush, sir; utter not such
blasphemy; trust me I am advising 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 it were, here now displayed before us a vast lake of bubbling
pitch with a host of snakes and serpents and lizards, and ferocious and
terrible creatures of all sorts swimming about in it, while from the
middle of the lake there comes a plaintive voice saying: 'Knight,
whosoever thou art who beholdest this dread lake, if thou wouldst win the
prize that lies hidden beneath these dusky waves, prove the valour of thy
stout heart and cast thyself into the midst of its dark burning waters,
else thou shalt not be worthy to see the mighty wonders contained in the
seven castles of the seven Fays that lie beneath this black expanse;' and
then the knight, almost ere the awful voice has ceased, without stopping
to consider, without pausing to reflect upon the danger to which he is
exposing himself, without even relieving himself of the weight of his
massive armour, commending himself to God and to his lady, plunges into
the midst of the boiling lake, and when he little looks for it, or knows
what his fate is to be, he finds himself among flowery meadows, with
which the Elysian fields are not to be compared.

"The sky seems more transparent there, and the sun shines with a strange
brilliancy, and a delightful grove of green leafy trees presents itself
to the eyes and charms the sight with its verdure, while the ear is
soothed by the sweet untutored melody of the countless birds of gay
plumage that flit to and fro among the interlacing branches. Here he sees
a brook whose limpid waters, like liquid crystal, ripple over fine sands
and white pebbles that look like sifted gold and purest pearls. There he
perceives a cunningly wrought fountain of many-coloured jasper and
polished marble; here another of rustic fashion where the little
mussel-shells and the spiral white and yellow mansions of the snail
disposed in studious disorder, mingled with fragments of glittering
crystal and mock emeralds, make up a work of varied aspect, where art,
imitating nature, seems to have outdone it.

"Suddenly there is presented to his sight a strong castle or gorgeous
palace with walls of massy gold, turrets of diamond and gates of jacinth;
in short, so marvellous is its structure that though the materials of
which it is built are nothing less than diamonds, carbuncles, rubies,
pearls, gold, and emeralds, the workmanship is still more rare. And after
having seen all this, what can be more charming than to see how a bevy of
damsels comes forth from the gate of the castle in gay and gorgeous
attire, such that, were I to set myself now to depict it as the histories
describe it to us, I should never have done; and then how she who seems
to be the first among them all takes the bold knight who plunged into the
boiling lake by the hand, and without addressing a word to him leads him
into the rich palace or castle, and strips him as naked as when his
mother bore him, and bathes him in lukewarm water, and anoints him all
over with sweet-smelling unguents, and clothes him in a shirt of the
softest sendal, all scented and perfumed, while another damsel comes and
throws over his shoulders a mantle which is said to be worth at the very
least a city, and even more? 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 out in such style that he is filled with amazement and wonder;
to see how they pour out water for his hands distilled from amber and
sweet-scented flowers; how they seat him on an ivory chair; to see how
the damsels wait on him all in profound silence; how they bring him such
a variety of dainties so temptingly prepared that the appetite is at a
loss which to select; to hear the music that resounds while he is at
table, by whom or whence produced he knows not. And then when the repast
is over and the tables removed, for the knight to recline in the chair,
picking his teeth perhaps as usual, and a damsel, much lovelier than any
of the others, to enter unexpectedly by the chamber door, and herself by
his side, and begin to tell him what the castle is, and how she is held
enchanted there, and other things that amaze the knight and astonish the
readers who are perusing his history.

"But I will not expatiate any further upon this, as it may be gathered
from it that whatever part of whatever history of a knight-errant one
reads, it will fill the reader, whoever he be, with delight and wonder;
and take my advice, sir, and, as I said before, read these books and you
will see how they will banish any melancholy you may feel and raise your
spirits should they be depressed. For myself I can say that since I have
been a knight-errant I have become valiant, polite, generous, well-bred,
magnanimous, courteous, dauntless, gentle, patient, and have learned to
bear hardships, imprisonments, and enchantments; and though it be such a
short time since I have seen myself shut up in a cage like a madman, I
hope by the might of my arm, if heaven aid me and fortune thwart me not,
to see myself king of some kingdom where I may be able to show the
gratitude and generosity that dwell in my heart; for by my faith, senor,
the poor man is incapacitated from showing the virtue of generosity to
anyone, though he may possess it in the highest degree; and gratitude
that consists of disposition only is a dead thing, just as faith without
works is dead. For this reason I should be glad were fortune soon to
offer me some opportunity of making myself 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 best fellow in the world; and I would gladly
give him a county I have promised him this ever so long, only that I am
afraid he has not the capacity 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 often
promised by you and so long looked for by me, for I promise you there
will be no want of capacity in me to govern it; and even if there is, I
have heard say there are men in the world who farm seigniories, paying so
much a year, and they themselves taking charge of the government, while
the lord, with his legs stretched out, enjoys the revenue they pay him,
without troubling himself about anything else. That's what I'll do, and
not stand haggling over trifles, but wash my hands at once of the whole
business, and enjoy my rents like a duke, and let things go their own

"That, brother Sancho," said the canon, "only holds good as far as the
enjoyment of the revenue goes; but the lord of the seigniory must attend
to the administration of justice, and here capacity and sound judgment
come in, and above all a firm determination to find out the truth; for if
this be wanting in the beginning, the middle and the end will always go
wrong; and God as commonly aids the honest intentions of the simple as he
frustrates the evil designs of the crafty."

"I don't understand those philosophies," returned Sancho Panza; "all I
know is I would I had the county as soon as I shall know how to govern
it; for I have as much soul as another, and as much body as anyone, 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 should please myself, and
pleasing myself I should be content, and when one is content he has
nothing more to desire, and when one has nothing more to desire there is
an end of it; so let the county come, and God he with you, and let us see
one another, as one blind man said to the other."

"That is not bad philosophy thou art talking, Sancho," said the canon;
"but for all that there is a good deal to be said on this matter of

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

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

By this time the canon's servants, who had gone to the inn to fetch the
sumpter mule, had returned, and making a carpet and the green grass of
the meadow serve as a table, they seated themselves in the shade of some
trees and made their repast there, that the carter might not be deprived
of the advantage of the spot, as has been already said. As they were
eating they suddenly heard a loud noise and the sound of a bell that
seemed to come from among some brambles and thick bushes that were close
by, and the same instant they observed a beautiful goat, spotted all over
black, white, and brown, spring out of the thicket with a goatherd after
it, calling to it and uttering the usual cries to make it stop or turn
back to the fold. The fugitive goat, scared and frightened, ran towards
the company as if seeking their protection and then stood still, and the
goatherd coming up seized it by the horns and began to talk to it as if
it were possessed of reason and understanding: "Ah wanderer, wanderer,
Spotty, Spotty; how have you gone limping all this time? What wolves have
frightened you, my daughter? Won't you tell me what is the matter, my
beauty? But what else can it be except that you are a she, and cannot
keep quiet? A plague on your humours and the humours of those you take
after! Come back, come back, my darling; and if you will not be so happy,
at any rate you will be safe in the fold or with your companions; for if
you who ought to keep and lead them, go wandering astray, what will
become of them?"

The goatherd's talk amused all who heard it, but especially the canon,
who said to him, "As you live, brother, take it easy, and be not in such
a hurry to drive this goat back to the fold; for, being a female, as you
say, she will follow her natural instinct in spite of all you can do to
prevent it. Take this morsel and drink a sup, and that will soothe your
irritation, and in the meantime the goat will rest herself," and so
saying, he handed him the loins of a cold rabbit on 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 for a 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. I am a clown, but not so
much of one but that I know how to behave to men and to beasts."

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

"At all events, senor," returned the goatherd, "they shelter men of
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 your attention for a
little, tell you a true story which will confirm this gentleman's word
(and he pointed to the curate) as well as my own."

To this Don Quixote replied, "Seeing that this affair has a certain
colour of chivalry about it, I for my part, brother, will hear you most
gladly, and so will all these gentlemen, from the high intelligence they
possess and their love of curious novelties that interest, charm, and
entertain the mind, as I feel quite sure your story will do. So begin,
friend, for we are all prepared to listen."

"I draw my stakes," said Sancho, "and will retreat with this pasty to the
brook there, where I mean to victual myself for three days; for I have
heard my lord, Don Quixote, say that a knight-errant's squire should eat
until he can hold no more, whenever he has the chance, because it often
happens them to get by accident into a wood so thick that they cannot
find a way out of it for six days; and if the man is not well filled or
his alforjas well stored, there he may stay, as very often he does,
turned into a dried mummy."

"Thou art in the right of it, Sancho," said Don Quixote; "go where thou
wilt and eat all thou canst, for I have had enough, and only want to give
my mind its refreshment, as I shall by listening to this good fellow's

"It is what we shall all do," said the canon; and then begged the
goatherd to begin the promised tale.

The goatherd gave the goat which he held by the horns a couple of slaps
on the back, saying, "Lie down here beside me, Spotty, for we have time
enough to return to our fold." The goat seemed to understand him, for as
her master seated himself, she stretched herself quietly beside him and
looked up in his face to show him she was all attention to what he was
going to say, and then in these words he began his story.


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