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Don Quixote - Vol. 2

CHAPTER VI.


OF WHAT TOOK PLACE BETWEEN DON QUIXOTE AND HIS NIECE AND HOUSEKEEPER; ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT CHAPTERS IN THE WHOLE HISTORY



While Sancho Panza and his wife, Teresa Cascajo, held the above irrelevant conversation, Don Quixote's niece and housekeeper were not idle, for by a thousand signs they began to perceive that their uncle and master meant to give them the slip the third time, and once more betake himself to his, for them, ill-errant chivalry. They strove by all the means in their power to divert him from such an unlucky scheme; but it was all preaching in the desert and hammering cold iron. Nevertheless, among many other representations made to him, the housekeeper said to him, "In truth, master, if you do not keep still and stay quiet at home, and give over roaming mountains and valleys like a troubled spirit, looking for what they say are called adventures, but what I call misfortunes, I shall have to make complaint to God and the king with loud supplication to send some remedy."

To which Don Quixote replied, "What answer God will give to your complaints, housekeeper, I know not, nor what his Majesty will answer either; I only know that if I were king I should decline to answer the numberless silly petitions they present every day; for one of the greatest among the many troubles kings have is being obliged to listen to all and answer all, and therefore I should be sorry that any affairs of mine should worry him."

Whereupon the housekeeper said, "Tell us, senor, at his Majesty's court are there no knights?"

"There are," replied Don Quixote, "and plenty of them; and it is right there should be, to set off the dignity of the prince, and for the greater glory of the king's majesty."

"Then might not your worship," said she, "be one of those that, without stirring a step, serve their king and lord in his court?"

"Recollect, my friend," said Don Quixote, "all knights cannot be courtiers, nor can all courtiers be knights-errant, nor need they be. There must be all sorts in the world; and though we may be all knights, there is a great difference between one and another; for the courtiers, without quitting their chambers, or the threshold of the court, range the world over by looking at a map, without its costing them a farthing, and without suffering heat or cold, hunger or thirst; but we, the true knights-errant, measure the whole earth with our own feet, exposed to the sun, to the cold, to the air, to the inclemencies of heaven, by day and night, on foot and on horseback; nor do we only know enemies in pictures, but in their own real shapes; and at all risks and on all occasions we attack them, without any regard to childish points or rules of single combat, whether one has or has not a shorter lance or sword, whether one carries relics or any secret contrivance about him, whether or not the sun is to be divided and portioned out, and other niceties of the sort that are observed in set combats of man to man, that you know nothing about, but I do. And you must know besides, that the true knight-errant, though he may see ten giants, that not only touch the clouds with their heads but pierce them, and that go, each of them, on two tall towers by way of legs, and whose arms are like the masts of mighty ships, and each eye like a great mill-wheel, and glowing brighter than a glass furnace, must not on any account be dismayed by them. On the contrary, he must attack and fall upon them with a gallant bearing and a fearless heart, and, if possible, vanquish and destroy them, even though they have for armour the shells of a certain fish, that they say are harder than diamonds, and in place of swords wield trenchant blades of Damascus steel, or clubs studded with spikes also of steel, such as I have more than once seen. All this I say, housekeeper, that you may see the difference there is between the one sort of knight and the other; and it would be well if there were no prince who did not set a higher value on this second, or more properly speaking first, kind of knights-errant; for, as we read in their histories, there have been some among them who have been the salvation, not merely of one kingdom, but of many."

"Ah, senor," here exclaimed the niece, "remember that all this you are saying about knights-errant is fable and fiction; and their histories, if indeed they were not burned, would deserve, each of them, to have a sambenito put on it, or some mark by which it might be known as infamous and a corrupter of good manners."

"By the God that gives me life," said Don Quixote, "if thou wert not my full niece, being daughter of my own sister, I would inflict a chastisement upon thee for the blasphemy thou hast uttered that all the world should ring with. What! can it be that a young hussy that hardly knows how to handle a dozen lace-bobbins dares to wag her tongue and criticise the histories of knights-errant? What would Senor Amadis say if he heard of such a thing? He, however, no doubt would forgive thee, for he was the most humble-minded and courteous knight of his time, and moreover a great protector of damsels; but some there are that might have heard thee, and it would not have been well for thee in that case; for they are not all courteous or mannerly; some are ill-conditioned scoundrels; nor is it everyone that calls himself a gentleman, that is so in all respects; some are gold, others pinchbeck, and all look like gentlemen, but not all can stand the touchstone of truth. There are men of low rank who strain themselves to bursting to pass for gentlemen, and high gentlemen who, one would fancy, were dying to pass for men of low rank; the former raise themselves by their ambition or by their virtues, the latter debase themselves by their lack of spirit or by their vices; and one has need of experience and discernment to distinguish these two kinds of gentlemen, so much alike in name and so different in conduct."

"God bless me!" said the niece, "that you should know so much, uncle—enough, if need be, to get up into a pulpit and go preach in the streets—and yet that you should fall into a delusion so great and a folly so manifest as to try to make yourself out vigorous when you are old, strong when you are sickly, able to put straight what is crooked when you yourself are bent by age, and, above all, a caballero when you are not one; for though gentlefolk may be so, poor men are nothing of the kind!"

"There is a great deal of truth in what you say, niece," returned Don Quixote, "and I could tell you somewhat about birth that would astonish you; but, not to mix up things human and divine, I refrain. Look you, my dears, all the lineages in the world (attend to what I am saying) can be reduced to four sorts, which are these: those that had humble beginnings, and went on spreading and extending themselves until they attained surpassing greatness; those that had great beginnings and maintained them, and still maintain and uphold the greatness of their origin; those, again, that from a great beginning have ended in a point like a pyramid, having reduced and lessened their original greatness till it has come to nought, like the point of a pyramid, which, relatively to its base or foundation, is nothing; and then there are those—and it is they that are the most numerous—that have had neither an illustrious beginning nor a remarkable mid-course, and so will have an end without a name, like an ordinary plebeian line. Of the first, those that had an humble origin and rose to the greatness they still preserve, the Ottoman house may serve as an example, which from an humble and lowly shepherd, its founder, has reached the height at which we now see it. For examples of the second sort of lineage, that began with greatness and maintains it still without adding to it, there are the many princes who have inherited the dignity, and maintain themselves in their inheritance, without increasing or diminishing it, keeping peacefully within the limits of their states. Of those that began great and ended in a point, there are thousands of examples, for all the Pharaohs and Ptolemies of Egypt, the Caesars of Rome, and the whole herd (if I may such a word to them) of countless princes, monarchs, lords, Medes, Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, and barbarians, all these lineages and lordships have ended in a point and come to nothing, they themselves as well as their founders, for it would be impossible now to find one of their descendants, and, even should we find one, it would be in some lowly and humble condition. Of plebeian lineages I have nothing to say, save that they merely serve to swell the number of those that live, without any eminence to entitle them to any fame or praise beyond this. From all I have said I would have you gather, my poor innocents, that great is the confusion among lineages, and that only those are seen to be great and illustrious that show themselves so by the virtue, wealth, and generosity of their possessors. I have said virtue, wealth, and generosity, because a great man who is vicious will be a great example of vice, and a rich man who is not generous will be merely a miserly beggar; for the possessor of wealth is not made happy by possessing it, but by spending it, and not by spending as he pleases, but by knowing how to spend it well. The poor gentleman has no way of showing that he is a gentleman but by virtue, by being affable, well-bred, courteous, gentle-mannered, and kindly, not haughty, arrogant, or censorious, but above all by being charitable; for by two maravedis given with a cheerful heart to the poor, he will show himself as generous as he who distributes alms with bell-ringing, and no one that perceives him to be endowed with the virtues I have named, even though he know him not, will fail to recognise and set him down as one of good blood; and it would be strange were it not so; praise has ever been the reward of virtue, and those who are virtuous cannot fail to receive commendation. There are two roads, my daughters, by which men may reach wealth and honours; one is that of letters, the other that of arms. I have more of arms than of letters in my composition, and, judging by my inclination to arms, was born under the influence of the planet Mars. I am, therefore, in a measure constrained to follow that road, and by it I must travel in spite of all the world, and it will be labour in vain for you to urge me to resist what heaven wills, fate ordains, reason requires, and, above all, my own inclination favours; for knowing as I do the countless toils that are the accompaniments of knight-errantry, I know, too, the infinite blessings that are attained by it; I know that the path of virtue is very narrow, and the road of vice broad and spacious; I know their ends and goals are different, for the broad and easy road of vice ends in death, and the narrow and toilsome one of virtue in life, and not transitory life, but in that which has no end; I know, as our great Castilian poet says, that-

It is by rugged paths like these they go
That scale the heights of immortality,
Unreached by those that falter here below."

"Woe is me!" exclaimed the niece, "my lord is a poet, too! He knows everything, and he can do everything; I will bet, if he chose to turn mason, he could make a house as easily as a cage."

"I can tell you, niece," replied Don Quixote, "if these chivalrous thoughts did not engage all my faculties, there would be nothing that I could not do, nor any sort of knickknack that would not come from my hands, particularly cages and tooth-picks."

At this moment there came a knocking at the door, and when they asked who was there, Sancho Panza made answer that it was he. The instant the housekeeper knew who it was, she ran to hide herself so as not to see him; in such abhorrence did she hold him. The niece let him in, and his master Don Quixote came forward to receive him with open arms, and the pair shut themselves up in his room, where they had another conversation not inferior to the previous one.





CHAPTER VII.


OF WHAT PASSED BETWEEN DON QUIXOTE AND HIS SQUIRE, TOGETHER WITH OTHER VERY NOTABLE INCIDENTS



The instant the housekeeper saw Sancho Panza shut himself in with her master, she guessed what they were about; and suspecting that the result of the consultation would be a resolve to undertake a third sally, she seized her mantle, and in deep anxiety and distress, ran to find the bachelor Samson Carrasco, as she thought that, being a well-spoken man, and a new friend of her master's, he might be able to persuade him to give up any such crazy notion. She found him pacing the patio of his house, and, perspiring and flurried, she fell at his feet the moment she saw him.

Carrasco, seeing how distressed and overcome she was, said to her, "What is this, mistress housekeeper? What has happened to you? One would think you heart-broken."

"Nothing, Senor Samson," said she, "only that my master is breaking out, plainly breaking out."

"Whereabouts is he breaking out, senora?" asked Samson; "has any part of his body burst?"

"He is only breaking out at the door of his madness," she replied; "I mean, dear senor bachelor, that he is going to break out again (and this will be the third time) to hunt all over the world for what he calls ventures, though I can't make out why he gives them that name. The first time he was brought back to us slung across the back of an ass, and belaboured all over; and the second time he came in an ox-cart, shut up in a cage, in which he persuaded himself he was enchanted, and the poor creature was in such a state that the mother that bore him would not have known him; lean, yellow, with his eyes sunk deep in the cells of his skull; so that to bring him round again, ever so little, cost me more than six hundred eggs, as God knows, and all the world, and my hens too, that won't let me tell a lie."

"That I can well believe," replied the bachelor, "for they are so good and so fat, and so well-bred, that they would not say one thing for another, though they were to burst for it. In short then, mistress housekeeper, that is all, and there is nothing the matter, except what it is feared Don Quixote may do?"

"No, senor," said she.

"Well then," returned the bachelor, "don't be uneasy, but go home in peace; get me ready something hot for breakfast, and while you are on the way say the prayer of Santa Apollonia, that is if you know it; for I will come presently and you will see miracles."

"Woe is me," cried the housekeeper, "is it the prayer of Santa Apollonia you would have me say? That would do if it was the toothache my master had; but it is in the brains, what he has got."

"I know what I am saying, mistress housekeeper; go, and don't set yourself to argue with me, for you know I am a bachelor of Salamanca, and one can't be more of a bachelor than that," replied Carrasco; and with this the housekeeper retired, and the bachelor went to look for the curate, and arrange with him what will be told in its proper place.

While Don Quixote and Sancho were shut up together, they had a discussion which the history records with great precision and scrupulous exactness. Sancho said to his master, "Senor, I have educed my wife to let me go with your worship wherever you choose to take me."

"Induced, you should say, Sancho," said Don Quixote; "not educed."

"Once or twice, as well as I remember," replied Sancho, "I have begged of your worship not to mend my words, if so be as you understand what I mean by them; and if you don't understand them to say 'Sancho,' or 'devil,' 'I don't understand thee; and if I don't make my meaning plain, then you may correct me, for I am so focile-"

"I don't understand thee, Sancho," said Don Quixote at once; "for I know not what 'I am so focile' means."

"'So focile' means I am so much that way," replied Sancho.

"I understand thee still less now," said Don Quixote.

"Well, if you can't understand me," said Sancho, "I don't know how to put it; I know no more, God help me."

"Oh, now I have hit it," said Don Quixote; "thou wouldst say thou art so docile, tractable, and gentle that thou wilt take what I say to thee, and submit to what I teach thee."

"I would bet," said Sancho, "that from the very first you understood me, and knew what I meant, but you wanted to put me out that you might hear me make another couple of dozen blunders."

"May be so," replied Don Quixote; "but to come to the point, what does Teresa say?"

"Teresa says," replied Sancho, "that I should make sure with your worship, and 'let papers speak and beards be still,' for 'he who binds does not wrangle,' since one 'take' is better than two 'I'll give thee's;' and I say a woman's advice is no great thing, and he who won't take it is a fool."

"And so say I," said Don Quixote; "continue, Sancho my friend; go on; you talk pearls to-day."

"The fact is," continued Sancho, "that, as your worship knows better than I do, we are all of us liable to death, and to-day we are, and to-morrow we are not, and the lamb goes as soon as the sheep, and nobody can promise himself more hours of life in this world than God may be pleased to give him; for death is deaf, and when it comes to knock at our life's door, it is always urgent, and neither prayers, nor struggles, nor sceptres, nor mitres, can keep it back, as common talk and report say, and as they tell us from the pulpits every day."

"All that is very true," said Don Quixote; "but I cannot make out what thou art driving at."

"What I am driving at," said Sancho, "is that your worship settle some fixed wages for me, to be paid monthly while I am in your service, and that the same he paid me out of your estate; for I don't care to stand on rewards which either come late, or ill, or never at all; God help me with my own. In short, I would like to know what I am to get, be it much or little; for the hen will lay on one egg, and many littles make a much, and so long as one gains something there is nothing lost. To be sure, if it should happen (what I neither believe nor expect) that your worship were to give me that island you have promised me, I am not so ungrateful nor so grasping but that I would be willing to have the revenue of such island valued and stopped out of my wages in due promotion."

"Sancho, my friend," replied Don Quixote, "sometimes proportion may be as good as promotion."

"I see," said Sancho; "I'll bet I ought to have said proportion, and not promotion; but it is no matter, as your worship has understood me."

"And so well understood," returned Don Quixote, "that I have seen into the depths of thy thoughts, and know the mark thou art shooting at with the countless shafts of thy proverbs. Look here, Sancho, I would readily fix thy wages if I had ever found any instance in the histories of the knights-errant to show or indicate, by the slightest hint, what their squires used to get monthly or yearly; but I have read all or the best part of their histories, and I cannot remember reading of any knight-errant having assigned fixed wages to his squire; I only know that they all served on reward, and that when they least expected it, if good luck attended their masters, they found themselves recompensed with an island or something equivalent to it, or at the least they were left with a title and lordship. If with these hopes and additional inducements you, Sancho, please to return to my service, well and good; but to suppose that I am going to disturb or unhinge the ancient usage of knight-errantry, is all nonsense. And so, my Sancho, get you back to your house and explain my intentions to your Teresa, and if she likes and you like to be on reward with me, bene quidem; if not, we remain friends; for if the pigeon-house does not lack food, it will not lack pigeons; and bear in mind, my son, that a good hope is better than a bad holding, and a good grievance better than a bad compensation. I speak in this way, Sancho, to show you that I can shower down proverbs just as well as yourself; and in short, I mean to say, and I do say, that if you don't like to come on reward with me, and run the same chance that I run, God be with you and make a saint of you; for I shall find plenty of squires more obedient and painstaking, and not so thickheaded or talkative as you are."

When Sancho heard his master's firm, resolute language, a cloud came over the sky with him and the wings of his heart drooped, for he had made sure that his master would not go without him for all the wealth of the world; and as he stood there dumbfoundered and moody, Samson Carrasco came in with the housekeeper and niece, who were anxious to hear by what arguments he was about to dissuade their master from going to seek adventures. The arch wag Samson came forward, and embracing him as he had done before, said with a loud voice, "O flower of knight-errantry! O shining light of arms! O honour and mirror of the Spanish nation! may God Almighty in his infinite power grant that any person or persons, who would impede or hinder thy third sally, may find no way out of the labyrinth of their schemes, nor ever accomplish what they most desire!" And then, turning to the housekeeper, he said, "Mistress housekeeper may just as well give over saying the prayer of Santa Apollonia, for I know it is the positive determination of the spheres that Senor Don Quixote shall proceed to put into execution his new and lofty designs; and I should lay a heavy burden on my conscience did I not urge and persuade this knight not to keep the might of his strong arm and the virtue of his valiant spirit any longer curbed and checked, for by his inactivity he is defrauding the world of the redress of wrongs, of the protection of orphans, of the honour of virgins, of the aid of widows, and of the support of wives, and other matters of this kind appertaining, belonging, proper and peculiar to the order of knight-errantry. On, then, my lord Don Quixote, beautiful and brave, let your worship and highness set out to-day rather than to-morrow; and if anything be needed for the execution of your purpose, here am I ready in person and purse to supply the want; and were it requisite to attend your magnificence as squire, I should esteem it the happiest good fortune."

At this, Don Quixote, turning to Sancho, said, "Did I not tell thee, Sancho, there would be squires enough and to spare for me? See now who offers to become one; no less than the illustrious bachelor Samson Carrasco, the perpetual joy and delight of the courts of the Salamancan schools, sound in body, discreet, patient under heat or cold, hunger or thirst, with all the qualifications requisite to make a knight-errant's squire! But heaven forbid that, to gratify my own inclination, I should shake or shatter this pillar of letters and vessel of the sciences, and cut down this towering palm of the fair and liberal arts. Let this new Samson remain in his own country, and, bringing honour to it, bring honour at the same time on the grey heads of his venerable parents; for I will be content with any squire that comes to hand, as Sancho does not deign to accompany me."

"I do deign," said Sancho, deeply moved and with tears in his eyes; "it shall not be said of me, master mine," he continued, "'the bread eaten and the company dispersed.' Nay, I come of no ungrateful stock, for all the world knows, but particularly my own town, who the Panzas from whom I am descended were; and, what is more, I know and have learned, by many good words and deeds, your worship's desire to show me favour; and if I have been bargaining more or less about my wages, it was only to please my wife, who, when she sets herself to press a point, no hammer drives the hoops of a cask as she drives one to do what she wants; but, after all, a man must be a man, and a woman a woman; and as I am a man anyhow, which I can't deny, I will be one in my own house too, let who will take it amiss; and so there's nothing more to do but for your worship to make your will with its codicil in such a way that it can't be provoked, and let us set out at once, to save Senor Samson's soul from suffering, as he says his conscience obliges him to persuade your worship to sally out upon the world a third time; so I offer again to serve your worship faithfully and loyally, as well and better than all the squires that served knights-errant in times past or present."

The bachelor was filled with amazement when he heard Sancho's phraseology and style of talk, for though he had read the first part of his master's history he never thought that he could be so droll as he was there described; but now, hearing him talk of a "will and codicil that could not be provoked," instead of "will and codicil that could not be revoked," he believed all he had read of him, and set him down as one of the greatest simpletons of modern times; and he said to himself that two such lunatics as master and man the world had never seen. In fine, Don Quixote and Sancho embraced one another and made friends, and by the advice and with the approval of the great Carrasco, who was now their oracle, it was arranged that their departure should take place three days thence, by which time they could have all that was requisite for the journey ready, and procure a closed helmet, which Don Quixote said he must by all means take. Samson offered him one, as he knew a friend of his who had it would not refuse it to him, though it was more dingy with rust and mildew than bright and clean like burnished steel.

The curses which both housekeeper and niece poured out on the bachelor were past counting; they tore their hair, they clawed their faces, and in the style of the hired mourners that were once in fashion, they raised a lamentation over the departure of their master and uncle, as if it had been his death. Samson's intention in persuading him to sally forth once more was to do what the history relates farther on; all by the advice of the curate and barber, with whom he had previously discussed the subject. Finally, then, during those three days, Don Quixote and Sancho provided themselves with what they considered necessary, and Sancho having pacified his wife, and Don Quixote his niece and housekeeper, at nightfall, unseen by anyone except the bachelor, who thought fit to accompany them half a league out of the village, they set out for El Toboso, Don Quixote on his good Rocinante and Sancho on his old Dapple, his alforjas furnished with certain matters in the way of victuals, and his purse with money that Don Quixote gave him to meet emergencies. Samson embraced him, and entreated him to let him hear of his good or evil fortunes, so that he might rejoice over the former or condole with him over the latter, as the laws of friendship required. Don Quixote promised him he would do so, and Samson returned to the village, and the other two took the road for the great city of El Toboso.






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