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CHAPTER LXXIV

OF HOW DON QUIXOTE FELL SICK, AND OF THE WILL HE MADE, AND HOW HE DIED

As nothing that is man's can last for ever, but all tends ever
downwards from its beginning to its end, and above all man's life, and
as Don Quixote's enjoyed no special dispensation from heaven to stay
its course, its end and close came when he least looked for it. For-
whether it was of the dejection the thought of his defeat produced, or
of heaven's will that so ordered it- a fever settled upon him and kept
him in his bed for six days, during which he was often visited by
his friends the curate, the bachelor, and the barber, while his good
squire Sancho Panza never quitted his bedside. They, persuaded that it
was grief at finding himself vanquished, and the object of his
heart, the liberation and disenchantment of Dulcinea, unattained, that
kept him in this state, strove by all the means in their power to
cheer him up; the bachelor bidding him take heart and get up to
begin his pastoral life, for which he himself, he said, had already
composed an eclogue that would take the shine out of all Sannazaro had
ever written, and had bought with his own money two famous dogs to
guard the flock, one called Barcino and the other Butron, which a
herdsman of Quintanar had sold him.

But for all this Don Quixote could not shake off his sadness. His
friends called in the doctor, who felt his pulse and was not very well
satisfied with it, and said that in any case it would be well for
him to attend to the health of his soul, as that of his body was in
a bad way. Don Quixote heard this calmly; but not so his
housekeeper, his niece, and his squire, who fell weeping bitterly,
as if they had him lying dead before them. The doctor's opinion was
that melancholy and depression were bringing him to his end. Don
Quixote begged them to leave him to himself, as he had a wish to sleep
a little. They obeyed, and he slept at one stretch, as the saying
is, more than six hours, so that the housekeeper and niece thought
he was going to sleep for ever. But at the end of that time he woke
up, and in a loud voice exclaimed, "Blessed be Almighty God, who has
shown me such goodness. In truth his mercies are boundless, and the
sins of men can neither limit them nor keep them back!"

The niece listened with attention to her uncle's words, and they
struck her as more coherent than what usually fell from him, at
least during his illness, so she asked, "What are you saying, senor?
Has anything strange occurred? What mercies or what sins of men are
you talking of?"

"The mercies, niece," said Don Quixote, "are those that God has this
moment shown me, and with him, as I said, my sins are no impediment to
them. My reason is now free and clear, rid of the dark shadows of
ignorance that my unhappy constant study of those detestable books
of chivalry cast over it. Now I see through their absurdities and
deceptions, and it only grieves me that this destruction of my
illusions has come so late that it leaves me no time to make some
amends by reading other books that might be a light to my soul. Niece,
I feel myself at the point of death, and I would fain meet it in
such a way as to show that my life has not been so ill that I should
leave behind me the name of a madman; for though I have been one, I
would not that the fact should be made plainer at my death. Call in to
me, my dear, my good friends the curate, the bachelor Samson Carrasco,
and Master Nicholas the barber, for I wish to confess and make my
will." But his niece was saved the trouble by the entrance of the
three. The instant Don Quixote saw them he exclaimed, "Good news for
you, good sirs, that I am no longer Don Quixote of La Mancha, but
Alonso Quixano, whose way of life won for him the name of Good. Now am
I the enemy of Amadis of Gaul and of the whole countless troop of
his descendants; odious to me now are all the profane stories of
knight-errantry; now I perceive my folly, and the peril into which
reading them brought me; now, by God's mercy schooled into my right
senses, I loathe them."

When the three heard him speak in this way, they had no doubt
whatever that some new craze had taken possession of him; and said
Samson, "What? Senor Don Quixote! Now that we have intelligence of the
lady Dulcinea being disenchanted, are you taking this line; now,
just as we are on the point of becoming shepherds, to pass our lives
singing, like princes, are you thinking of turning hermit? Hush, for
heaven's sake, be rational and let's have no more nonsense."

"All that nonsense," said Don Quixote, "that until now has been a
reality to my hurt, my death will, with heaven's help, turn to my
good. I feel, sirs, that I am rapidly drawing near death; a truce to
jesting; let me have a confessor to confess me, and a notary to make
my will; for in extremities like this, man must not trifle with his
soul; and while the curate is confessing me let some one, I beg, go
for the notary."

They looked at one another, wondering at Don Quixote's words; but,
though uncertain, they were inclined to believe him, and one of the
signs by which they came to the conclusion he was dying was this so
sudden and complete return to his senses after having been mad; for to
the words already quoted he added much more, so well expressed, so
devout, and so rational, as to banish all doubt and convince them that
he was sound of mind. The curate turned them all out, and left alone
with him confessed him. The bachelor went for the notary and
returned shortly afterwards with him and with Sancho, who, having
already learned from the bachelor the condition his master was in, and
finding the housekeeper and niece weeping, began to blubber and shed
tears.

The confession over, the curate came out saying, "Alonso Quixano the
Good is indeed dying, and is indeed in his right mind; we may now go
in to him while he makes his will."

This news gave a tremendous impulse to the brimming eyes of the
housekeeper, niece, and Sancho Panza his good squire, making the tears
burst from their eyes and a host of sighs from their hearts; for of
a truth, as has been said more than once, whether as plain Alonso
Quixano the Good, or as Don Quixote of La Mancha, Don Quixote was
always of a gentle disposition and kindly in all his ways, and hence
he was beloved, not only by those of his own house, but by all who
knew him.

The notary came in with the rest, and as soon as the preamble of the
had been set out and Don Quixote had commended his soul to God with
all the devout formalities that are usual, coming to the bequests,
he said, "Item, it is my will that, touching certain moneys in the
hands of Sancho Panza (whom in my madness I made my squire),
inasmuch as between him and me there have been certain accounts and
debits and credits, no claim be made against him, nor any account
demanded of him in respect of them; but that if anything remain over
and above, after he has paid himself what I owe him, the balance,
which will be but little, shall be his, and much good may it do him;
and if, as when I was mad I had a share in giving him the government
of an island, so, now that I am in my senses, I could give him that of
a kingdom, it should be his, for the simplicity of his character and
the fidelity of his conduct deserve it." And then, turning to
Sancho, he said, "Forgive me, my friend, that I led thee to seem as
mad as myself, making thee fall into the same error I myself fell
into, that there were and still are knights-errant in the world."

"Ah!" said Sancho weeping, "don't die, master, but take my advice
and live many years; for the foolishest thing a man can do in this
life is to let himself die without rhyme or reason, without anybody
killing him, or any hands but melancholy's making an end of him. Come,
don't be lazy, but get up from your bed and let us take to the
fields in shepherd's trim as we agreed. Perhaps behind some bush we
shall find the lady Dulcinea disenchanted, as fine as fine can be.
If it be that you are dying of vexation at having been vanquished, lay
the blame on me, and say you were overthrown because I had girthed
Rocinante badly; besides you must have seen in your books of
chivalry that it is a common thing for knights to upset one another,
and for him who is conquered to-day to be conqueror tomorrow."

"Very true," said Samson, "and good Sancho Panza's view of these
cases is quite right."

"Sirs, not so fast," said Don Quixote, "'in last year's nests
there are no birds this year.' I was mad, now I am in my senses; I was
Don Quixote of La Mancha, I am now, as I said, Alonso Quixano the
Good; and may my repentance and sincerity restore me to the esteem you
used to have for me; and now let Master Notary proceed.

"Item, I leave all my property absolutely to Antonia Quixana my
niece, here present, after all has been deducted from the most
available portion of it that may be required to satisfy the bequests I
have made. And the first disbursement I desire to be made is the
payment of the wages I owe for the time my housekeeper has served
me, with twenty ducats, over and above, for a gown. The curate and the
bachelor Samson Carrasco, now present, I appoint my executors.

"Item, it is my wish that if Antonia Quixana, my niece, desires to
marry, she shall marry a man of whom it shall be first of all
ascertained by information taken that he does not know what books of
chivalry are; and if it should be proved that he does, and if, in
spite of this, my niece insists upon marrying him, and does marry him,
then that she shall forfeit the whole of what I have left her, which
my executors shall devote to works of charity as they please.

"Item, I entreat the aforesaid gentlemen my executors, that, if
any happy chance should lead them to discover the author who is said
to have written a history now going about under the title of 'Second
Part of the Achievements of Don Quixote of La Mancha,' they beg of him
on my behalf as earnestly as they can to forgive me for having been,
without intending it, the cause of his writing so many and such
monstrous absurdities as he has written in it; for I am leaving the
world with a feeling of compunction at having provoked him to write
them."

With this he closed his will, and a faintness coming over him he
stretched himself out at full length on the bed. All were in a flutter
and made haste to relieve him, and during the three days he lived
after that on which he made his will he fainted away very often. The
house was all in confusion; but still the niece ate and the
housekeeper drank and Sancho Panza enjoyed himself; for inheriting
property wipes out or softens down in the heir the feeling of grief
the dead man might be expected to leave behind him.

At last Don Quixote's end came, after he had received all the
sacraments, and had in full and forcible terms expressed his
detestation of books of chivalry. The notary was there at the time,
and he said that in no book of chivalry had he ever read of any
knight-errant dying in his bed so calmly and so like a Christian as
Don Quixote, who amid the tears and lamentations of all present
yielded up his spirit, that is to say died. On perceiving it the
curate begged the notary to bear witness that Alonso Quixano the Good,
commonly called Don Quixote of La Mancha, had passed away from this
present life, and died naturally; and said he desired this testimony
in order to remove the possibility of any other author save Cide
Hamete Benengeli bringing him to life again falsely and making
interminable stories out of his achievements.

Such was the end of the Ingenious Gentleman of La Mancha, whose
village Cide Hamete would not indicate precisely, in order to leave
all the towns and villages of La Mancha to contend among themselves
for the right to adopt him and claim him as a son, as the seven cities
of Greece contended for Homer. The lamentations of Sancho and the
niece and housekeeper are omitted here, as well as the new epitaphs
upon his tomb; Samson Carrasco, however, put the following lines:


A doughty gentleman lies here;
A stranger all his life to fear;
Nor in his death could Death prevail,
In that last hour, to make him quail.
He for the world but little cared;
And at his feats the world was scared;
A crazy man his life he passed,
But in his senses died at last.


And said most sage Cide Hamete to his pen, "Rest here, hung up by
this brass wire, upon this shelf, O my pen, whether of skilful make or
clumsy cut I know not; here shalt thou remain long ages hence,
unless presumptuous or malignant story-tellers take thee down to
profane thee. But ere they touch thee warn them, and, as best thou
canst, say to them:

Hold off! ye weaklings; hold your hands!
Adventure it let none,
For this emprise, my lord the king,
Was meant for me alone.

For me alone was Don Quixote born, and I for him; it was his to act,
mine to write; we two together make but one, notwithstanding and in
spite of that pretended Tordesillesque writer who has ventured or
would venture with his great, coarse, ill-trimmed ostrich quill to
write the achievements of my valiant knight;- no burden for his
shoulders, nor subject for his frozen wit: whom, if perchance thou
shouldst come to know him, thou shalt warn to leave at rest where they
lie the weary mouldering bones of Don Quixote, and not to attempt to
carry him off, in opposition to all the privileges of death, to Old
Castile, making him rise from the grave where in reality and truth
he lies stretched at full length, powerless to make any third
expedition or new sally; for the two that he has already made, so much
to the enjoyment and approval of everybody to whom they have become
known, in this as well as in foreign countries, are quite sufficient
for the purpose of turning into ridicule the whole of those made by
the whole set of the knights-errant; and so doing shalt thou discharge
thy Christian calling, giving good counsel to one that bears
ill-will to thee. And I shall remain satisfied, and proud to have been
the first who has ever enjoyed the fruit of his writings as fully as
he could desire; for my desire has been no other than to deliver
over to the detestation of mankind the false and foolish tales of
the books of chivalry, which, thanks to that of my true Don Quixote,
are even now tottering, and doubtless doomed to fall for ever.
Farewell."



THE END





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