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CHAPTER LVIII

WHICH TELLS HOW ADVENTURES CAME CROWDING ON DON QUIXOTE IN SUCH
NUMBERS THAT THEY GAVE ONE ANOTHER NO BREATHING-TIME

When Don Quixote saw himself in open country, free, and relieved
from the attentions of Altisidora, he felt at his ease, and in fresh
spirits to take up the pursuit of chivalry once more; and turning to
Sancho he said, "Freedom, Sancho, is one of the most precious gifts
that heaven has bestowed upon men; no treasures that the earth holds
buried or the sea conceals can compare with it; for freedom, as for
honour, life may and should be ventured; and on the other hand,
captivity is the greatest evil that can fall to the lot of man. I
say this, Sancho, because thou hast seen the good cheer, the abundance
we have enjoyed in this castle we are leaving; well then, amid those
dainty banquets and snow-cooled beverages I felt as though I were
undergoing the straits of hunger, because I did not enjoy them with
the same freedom as if they had been mine own; for the sense of
being under an obligation to return benefits and favours received is a
restraint that checks the independence of the spirit. Happy he, to
whom heaven has given a piece of bread for which he is not bound to
give thanks to any but heaven itself!"

"For all your worship says," said Sancho, "it is not becoming that
there should he no thanks on our part for two hundred gold crowns that
the duke's majordomo has given me in a little purse which I carry next
my heart, like a warming plaster or comforter, to meet any chance
calls; for we shan't always find castles where they'll entertain us;
now and then we may light upon roadside inns where they'll cudgel us."

In conversation of this sort the knight and squire errant were
pursuing their journey, when, after they had gone a little more than
half a league, they perceived some dozen men dressed like labourers
stretched upon their cloaks on the grass of a green meadow eating
their dinner. They had beside them what seemed to be white sheets
concealing some objects under them, standing upright or lying flat,
and arranged at intervals. Don Quixote approached the diners, and,
saluting them courteously first, he asked them what it was those
cloths covered. "Senor," answered one of the party, "under these
cloths are some images carved in relief intended for a retablo we
are putting up in our village; we carry them covered up that they
may not be soiled, and on our shoulders that they may not be broken."

"With your good leave," said Don Quixote, "I should like to see
them; for images that are carried so carefully no doubt must be fine
ones."

"I should think they were!" said the other; "let the money they cost
speak for that; for as a matter of fact there is not one of them
that does not stand us in more than fifty ducats; and that your
worship may judge; wait a moment, and you shall see with your own
eyes;" and getting up from his dinner he went and uncovered the
first image, which proved to be one of Saint George on horseback
with a serpent writhing at his feet and the lance thrust down its
throat with all that fierceness that is usually depicted. The whole
group was one blaze of gold, as the saying is. On seeing it Don
Quixote said, "That knight was one of the best knights-errant the army
of heaven ever owned; he was called Don Saint George, and he was
moreover a defender of maidens. Let us see this next one."

The man uncovered it, and it was seen to be that of Saint Martin
on his horse, dividing his cloak with the beggar. The instant Don
Quixote saw it he said, "This knight too was one of the Christian
adventurers, but I believe he was generous rather than valiant, as
thou mayest perceive, Sancho, by his dividing his cloak with the
beggar and giving him half of it; no doubt it was winter at the
time, for otherwise he would have given him the whole of it, so
charitable was he."

"It was not that, most likely," said Sancho, "but that he held
with the proverb that says, 'For giving and keeping there's need of
brains.'"

Don Quixote laughed, and asked them to take off the next cloth,
underneath which was seen the image of the patron saint of the
Spains seated on horseback, his sword stained with blood, trampling on
Moors and treading heads underfoot; and on seeing it Don Quixote
exclaimed, "Ay, this is a knight, and of the squadrons of Christ! This
one is called Don Saint James the Moorslayer, one of the bravest
saints and knights the world ever had or heaven has now."

They then raised another cloth which it appeared covered Saint
Paul falling from his horse, with all the details that are usually
given in representations of his conversion. When Don Quixote saw it,
rendered in such lifelike style that one would have said Christ was
speaking and Paul answering, "This," he said, "was in his time the
greatest enemy that the Church of God our Lord had, and the greatest
champion it will ever have; a knight-errant in life, a steadfast saint
in death, an untiring labourer in the Lord's vineyard, a teacher of
the Gentiles, whose school was heaven, and whose instructor and master
was Jesus Christ himself."

There were no more images, so Don Quixote bade them cover them up
again, and said to those who had brought them, "I take it as a happy
omen, brothers, to have seen what I have; for these saints and knights
were of the same profession as myself, which is the calling of arms;
only there is this difference between them and me, that they were
saints, and fought with divine weapons, and I am a sinner and fight
with human ones. They won heaven by force of arms, for heaven
suffereth violence; and I, so far, know not what I have won by dint of
my sufferings; but if my Dulcinea del Toboso were to be released
from hers, perhaps with mended fortunes and a mind restored to
itself I might direct my steps in a better path than I am following at
present."

"May God hear and sin be deaf," said Sancho to this.

The men were filled with wonder, as well at the figure as at the
words of Don Quixote, though they did not understand one half of
what he meant by them. They finished their dinner, took their images
on their backs, and bidding farewell to Don Quixote resumed their
journey.

Sancho was amazed afresh at the extent of his master's knowledge, as
much as if he had never known him, for it seemed to him that there was
no story or event in the world that he had not at his fingers' ends
and fixed in his memory, and he said to him, "In truth, master mine,
if this that has happened to us to-day is to be called an adventure,
it has been one of the sweetest and pleasantest that have befallen
us in the whole course of our travels; we have come out of it
unbelaboured and undismayed, neither have we drawn sword nor have we
smitten the earth with our bodies, nor have we been left famishing;
blessed be God that he has let me see such a thing with my own eyes!"

"Thou sayest well, Sancho," said Don Quixote, "but remember all
times are not alike nor do they always run the same way; and these
things the vulgar commonly call omens, which are not based upon any
natural reason, will by him who is wise be esteemed and reckoned happy
accidents merely. One of these believers in omens will get up of a
morning, leave his house, and meet a friar of the order of the blessed
Saint Francis, and, as if he had met a griffin, he will turn about and
go home. With another Mendoza the salt is spilt on his table, and
gloom is spilt over his heart, as if nature was obliged to give
warning of coming misfortunes by means of such trivial things as
these. The wise man and the Christian should not trifle with what it
may please heaven to do. Scipio on coming to Africa stumbled as he
leaped on shore; his soldiers took it as a bad omen; but he,
clasping the soil with his arms, exclaimed, 'Thou canst not escape me,
Africa, for I hold thee tight between my arms.' Thus, Sancho,
meeting those images has been to me a most happy occurrence."

"I can well believe it," said Sancho; "but I wish your worship would
tell me what is the reason that the Spaniards, when they are about
to give battle, in calling on that Saint James the Moorslayer, say
'Santiago and close Spain!' Is Spain, then, open, so that it is
needful to close it; or what is the meaning of this form?"

"Thou art very simple, Sancho," said Don Quixote; "God, look you,
gave that great knight of the Red Cross to Spain as her patron saint
and protector, especially in those hard struggles the Spaniards had
with the Moors; and therefore they invoke and call upon him as their
defender in all their battles; and in these he has been many a time
seen beating down, trampling under foot, destroying and slaughtering
the Hagarene squadrons in the sight of all; of which fact I could give
thee many examples recorded in truthful Spanish histories."

Sancho changed the subject, and said to his master, "I marvel,
senor, at the boldness of Altisidora, the duchess's handmaid; he
whom they call Love must have cruelly pierced and wounded her; they
say he is a little blind urchin who, though blear-eyed, or more
properly speaking sightless, if he aims at a heart, be it ever so
small, hits it and pierces it through and through with his arrows. I
have heard it said too that the arrows of Love are blunted and
robbed of their points by maidenly modesty and reserve; but with
this Altisidora it seems they are sharpened rather than blunted."

"Bear in mind, Sancho," said Don Quixote, "that love is influenced
by no consideration, recognises no restraints of reason, and is of the
same nature as death, that assails alike the lofty palaces of kings
and the humble cabins of shepherds; and when it takes entire
possession of a heart, the first thing it does is to banish fear and
shame from it; and so without shame Altisidora declared her passion,
which excited in my mind embarrassment rather than commiseration."

"Notable cruelty!" exclaimed Sancho; "unheard-of ingratitude! I
can only say for myself that the very smallest loving word of hers
would have subdued me and made a slave of me. The devil! What a
heart of marble, what bowels of brass, what a soul of mortar! But I
can't imagine what it is that this damsel saw in your worship that
could have conquered and captivated her so. What gallant figure was
it, what bold bearing, what sprightly grace, what comeliness of
feature, which of these things by itself, or what all together,
could have made her fall in love with you? For indeed and in truth
many a time I stop to look at your worship from the sole of your
foot to the topmost hair of your head, and I see more to frighten
one than to make one fall in love; moreover I have heard say that
beauty is the first and main thing that excites love, and as your
worship has none at all, I don't know what the poor creature fell in
love with."

"Recollect, Sancho," replied Don Quixote, "there are two sorts of
beauty, one of the mind, the other of the body; that of the mind
displays and exhibits itself in intelligence, in modesty, in
honourable conduct, in generosity, in good breeding; and all these
qualities are possible and may exist in an ugly man; and when it is
this sort of beauty and not that of the body that is the attraction,
love is apt to spring up suddenly and violently. I, Sancho, perceive
clearly enough that I am not beautiful, but at the same time I know
I am not hideous; and it is enough for an honest man not to be a
monster to he an object of love, if only he possesses the endowments
of mind I have mentioned."

While engaged in this discourse they were making their way through a
wood that lay beyond the road, when suddenly, without expecting
anything of the kind, Don Quixote found himself caught in some nets of
green cord stretched from one tree to another; and unable to
conceive what it could be, he said to Sancho, "Sancho, it strikes me
this affair of these nets will prove one of the strangest adventures
imaginable. May I die if the enchanters that persecute me are not
trying to entangle me in them and delay my journey, by way of
revenge for my obduracy towards Altisidora. Well then let me tell them
that if these nets, instead of being green cord, were made of the
hardest diamonds, or stronger than that wherewith the jealous god of
blacksmiths enmeshed Venus and Mars, I would break them as easily as
if they were made of rushes or cotton threads." But just as he was
about to press forward and break through all, suddenly from among some
trees two shepherdesses of surpassing beauty presented themselves to
his sight- or at least damsels dressed like shepherdesses, save that
their jerkins and sayas were of fine brocade; that is to say, the
sayas were rich farthingales of gold embroidered tabby. Their hair,
that in its golden brightness vied with the beams of the sun itself,
fell loose upon their shoulders and was crowned with garlands twined
with green laurel and red everlasting; and their years to all
appearance were not under fifteen nor above eighteen. Such was the
spectacle that filled Sancho with amazement, fascinated Don Quixote,
made the sun halt in his course to behold them, and held all four in a
strange silence. One of the shepherdesses, at length, was the first to
speak and said to Don Quixote, "Hold, sir knight, and do not break
these nets; for they are not spread here to do you any harm, but
only for our amusement; and as I know you will ask why they have
been put up, and who we are, I will tell you in a few words. In a
village some two leagues from this, where there are many people of
quality and rich gentlefolk, it was agreed upon by a number of friends
and relations to come with their wives, sons and daughters,
neighbours, friends and kinsmen, and make holiday in this spot,
which is one of the pleasantest in the whole neighbourhood, setting up
a new pastoral Arcadia among ourselves, we maidens dressing
ourselves as shepherdesses and the youths as shepherds. We have
prepared two eclogues, one by the famous poet Garcilasso, the other by
the most excellent Camoens, in its own Portuguese tongue, but we
have not as yet acted them. Yesterday was the first day of our
coming here; we have a few of what they say are called field-tents
pitched among the trees on the bank of an ample brook that
fertilises all these meadows; last night we spread these nets in the
trees here to snare the silly little birds that startled by the
noise we make may fly into them. If you please to he our guest, senor,
you will be welcomed heartily and courteously, for here just now
neither care nor sorrow shall enter."

She held her peace and said no more, and Don Quixote made answer,
"Of a truth, fairest lady, Actaeon when he unexpectedly beheld Diana
bathing in the stream could not have been more fascinated and
wonderstruck than I at the sight of your beauty. I commend your mode
of entertainment, and thank you for the kindness of your invitation;
and if I can serve you, you may command me with full confidence of
being obeyed, for my profession is none other than to show myself
grateful, and ready to serve persons of all conditions, but especially
persons of quality such as your appearance indicates; and if,
instead of taking up, as they probably do, but a small space, these
nets took up the whole surface of the globe, I would seek out new
worlds through which to pass, so as not to break them; and that ye may
give some degree of credence to this exaggerated language of mine,
know that it is no less than Don Quixote of La Mancha that makes
this declaration to you, if indeed it be that such a name has
reached your ears."

"Ah! friend of my soul," instantly exclaimed the other
shepherdess, "what great good fortune has befallen us! Seest thou this
gentleman we have before us? Well then let me tell thee he is the most
valiant and the most devoted and the most courteous gentleman in all
the world, unless a history of his achievements that has been
printed and I have read is telling lies and deceiving us. I will lay a
wager that this good fellow who is with him is one Sancho Panza his
squire, whose drolleries none can equal."

"That's true," said Sancho; "I am that same droll and squire you
speak of, and this gentleman is my master Don Quixote of La Mancha,
the same that's in the history and that they talk about."

"Oh, my friend," said the other, "let us entreat him to stay; for it
will give our fathers and brothers infinite pleasure; I too have heard
just what thou hast told me of the valour of the one and the
drolleries of the other; and what is more, of him they say that he
is the most constant and loyal lover that was ever heard of, and
that his lady is one Dulcinea del Toboso, to whom all over Spain the
palm of beauty is awarded."

"And justly awarded," said Don Quixote, "unless, indeed, your
unequalled beauty makes it a matter of doubt. But spare yourselves the
trouble, ladies, of pressing me to stay, for the urgent calls of my
profession do not allow me to take rest under any circumstances."

At this instant there came up to the spot where the four stood a
brother of one of the two shepherdesses, like them in shepherd
costume, and as richly and gaily dressed as they were. They told him
that their companion was the valiant Don Quixote of La Mancha, and the
other Sancho his squire, of whom he knew already from having read
their history. The gay shepherd offered him his services and begged
that he would accompany him to their tents, and Don Quixote had to
give way and comply. And now the gave was started, and the nets were
filled with a variety of birds that deceived by the colour fell into
the danger they were flying from. Upwards of thirty persons, all gaily
attired as shepherds and shepherdesses, assembled on the spot, and
were at once informed who Don Quixote and his squire were, whereat
they were not a little delighted, as they knew of him already
through his history. They repaired to the tents, where they found
tables laid out, and choicely, plentifully, and neatly furnished. They
treated Don Quixote as a person of distinction, giving him the place
of honour, and all observed him, and were full of astonishment at
the spectacle. At last the cloth being removed, Don Quixote with great
composure lifted up his voice and said:

"One of the greatest sins that men are guilty of is- some will say
pride- but I say ingratitude, going by the common saying that hell
is full of ingrates. This sin, so far as it has lain in my power, I
have endeavoured to avoid ever since I have enjoyed the faculty of
reason; and if I am unable to requite good deeds that have been done
me by other deeds, I substitute the desire to do so; and if that be
not enough I make them known publicly; for he who declares and makes
known the good deeds done to him would repay them by others if it were
in his power, and for the most part those who receive are the
inferiors of those who give. Thus, God is superior to all because he
is the supreme giver, and the offerings of man fall short by an
infinite distance of being a full return for the gifts of God; but
gratitude in some degree makes up for this deficiency and shortcoming.
I therefore, grateful for the favour that has been extended to me
here, and unable to make a return in the same measure, restricted as I
am by the narrow limits of my power, offer what I can and what I
have to offer in my own way; and so I declare that for two full days I
will maintain in the middle of this highway leading to Saragossa, that
these ladies disguised as shepherdesses, who are here present, are the
fairest and most courteous maidens in the world, excepting only the
peerless Dulcinea del Toboso, sole mistress of my thoughts, be it said
without offence to those who hear me, ladies and gentlemen."

On hearing this Sancho, who had been listening with great attention,
cried out in a loud voice, "Is it possible there is anyone in the
world who will dare to say and swear that this master of mine is a
madman? Say, gentlemen shepherds, is there a village priest, be he
ever so wise or learned, who could say what my master has said; or
is there knight-errant, whatever renown he may have as a man of
valour, that could offer what my master has offered now?"

Don Quixote turned upon Sancho, and with a countenance glowing
with anger said to him, "Is it possible, Sancho, there is anyone in
the whole world who will say thou art not a fool, with a lining to
match, and I know not what trimmings of impertinence and roguery?
Who asked thee to meddle in my affairs, or to inquire whether I am a
wise man or a blockhead? Hold thy peace; answer me not a word;
saddle Rocinante if he be unsaddled; and let us go to put my offer
into execution; for with the right that I have on my side thou
mayest reckon as vanquished all who shall venture to question it;" and
in a great rage, and showing his anger plainly, he rose from his seat,
leaving the company lost in wonder, and making them feel doubtful
whether they ought to regard him as a madman or a rational being. In
the end, though they sought to dissuade him from involving himself
in such a challenge, assuring him they admitted his gratitude as fully
established, and needed no fresh proofs to be convinced of his valiant
spirit, as those related in the history of his exploits were
sufficient, still Don Quixote persisted in his resolve; and mounted on
Rocinante, bracing his buckler on his arm and grasping his lance, he
posted himself in the middle of a high road that was not far from
the green meadow. Sancho followed on Dapple, together with all the
members of the pastoral gathering, eager to see what would be the
upshot of his vainglorious and extraordinary proposal.

Don Quixote, then, having, as has been said, planted himself in
the middle of the road, made the welkin ring with words to this
effect: "Ho ye travellers and wayfarers, knights, squires, folk on
foot or on horseback, who pass this way or shall pass in the course of
the next two days! Know that Don Quixote of La Mancha,
knight-errant, is posted here to maintain by arms that the beauty
and courtesy enshrined in the nymphs that dwell in these meadows and
groves surpass all upon earth, putting aside the lady of my heart,
Dulcinea del Toboso. Wherefore, let him who is of the opposite opinion
come on, for here I await him."

Twice he repeated the same words, and twice they fell unheard by any
adventurer; but fate, that was guiding affairs for him from better
to better, so ordered it that shortly afterwards there appeared on the
road a crowd of men on horseback, many of them with lances in their
hands, all riding in a compact body and in great haste. No sooner
had those who were with Don Quixote seen them than they turned about
and withdrew to some distance from the road, for they knew that if
they stayed some harm might come to them; but Don Quixote with
intrepid heart stood his ground, and Sancho Panza shielded himself
with Rocinante's hind-quarters. The troop of lancers came up, and
one of them who was in advance began shouting to Don Quixote, "Get out
of the way, you son of the devil, or these bulls will knock you to
pieces!"

"Rabble!" returned Don Quixote, "I care nothing for bulls, be they
the fiercest Jarama breeds on its banks. Confess at once,
scoundrels, that what I have declared is true; else ye have to deal
with me in combat."

The herdsman had no time to reply, nor Don Quixote to get out of the
way even if he wished; and so the drove of fierce bulls and tame
bullocks, together with the crowd of herdsmen and others who were
taking them to be penned up in a village where they were to be run the
next day, passed over Don Quixote and over Sancho, Rocinante and
Dapple, hurling them all to the earth and rolling them over on the
ground. Sancho was left crushed, Don Quixote scared, Dapple belaboured
and Rocinante in no very sound condition. They all got up, however, at
length, and Don Quixote in great haste, stumbling here and falling
there, started off running after the drove, shouting out, "Hold! stay!
ye rascally rabble, a single knight awaits you, and he is not of the
temper or opinion of those who say, 'For a flying enemy make a
bridge of silver.'" The retreating party in their haste, however,
did not stop for that, or heed his menaces any more than last year's
clouds. Weariness brought Don Quixote to a halt, and more enraged than
avenged he sat down on the road to wait until Sancho, Rocinante and
Dapple came up. When they reached him master and man mounted once
more, and without going back to bid farewell to the mock or
imitation Arcadia, and more in humiliation than contentment, they
continued their journey.




Don Quixote by Migeul de Cervantes
Category:
Romance Literature - Spanish
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