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CHAPTER I

OF THE INTERVIEW THE CURATE AND THE BARBER HAD WITH DON QUIXOTE
ABOUT HIS MALADY

Cide Hamete Benengeli, in the Second Part of this history, and third
sally of Don Quixote, says that the curate and the barber remained
nearly a month without seeing him, lest they should recall or bring
back to his recollection what had taken place. They did not,
however, omit to visit his niece and housekeeper, and charge them to
be careful to treat him with attention, and give him comforting things
to eat, and such as were good for the heart and the brain, whence,
it was plain to see, all his misfortune proceeded. The niece and
housekeeper replied that they did so, and meant to do so with all
possible care and assiduity, for they could perceive that their master
was now and then beginning to show signs of being in his right mind.
This gave great satisfaction to the curate and the barber, for they
concluded they had taken the right course in carrying him off
enchanted on the ox-cart, as has been described in the First Part of
this great as well as accurate history, in the last chapter thereof.
So they resolved to pay him a visit and test the improvement in his
condition, although they thought it almost impossible that there could
be any; and they agreed not to touch upon any point connected with
knight-errantry so as not to run the risk of reopening wounds which
were still so tender.

They came to see him consequently, and found him sitting up in bed
in a green baize waistcoat and a red Toledo cap, and so withered and
dried up that he looked as if he had been turned into a mummy. They
were very cordially received by him; they asked him after his
health, and he talked to them about himself very naturally and in very
well-chosen language. In the course of their conversation they fell to
discussing what they call State-craft and systems of government,
correcting this abuse and condemning that, reforming one practice
and abolishing another, each of the three setting up for a new
legislator, a modern Lycurgus, or a brand-new Solon; and so completely
did they remodel the State, that they seemed to have thrust it into
a furnace and taken out something quite different from what they had
put in; and on all the subjects they dealt with, Don Quixote spoke
with such good sense that the pair of examiners were fully convinced
that he was quite recovered and in his full senses.

The niece and housekeeper were present at the conversation and could
not find words enough to express their thanks to God at seeing their
master so clear in his mind; the curate, however, changing his
original plan, which was to avoid touching upon matters of chivalry,
resolved to test Don Quixote's recovery thoroughly, and see whether it
were genuine or not; and so, from one subject to another, he came at
last to talk of the news that had come from the capital, and, among
other things, he said it was considered certain that the Turk was
coming down with a powerful fleet, and that no one knew what his
purpose was, or when the great storm would burst; and that all
Christendom was in apprehension of this, which almost every year calls
us to arms, and that his Majesty had made provision for the security
of the coasts of Naples and Sicily and the island of Malta.

To this Don Quixote replied, "His Majesty has acted like a prudent
warrior in providing for the safety of his realms in time, so that the
enemy may not find him unprepared; but if my advice were taken I would
recommend him to adopt a measure which at present, no doubt, his
Majesty is very far from thinking of."

The moment the curate heard this he said to himself, "God keep
thee in his hand, poor Don Quixote, for it seems to me thou art
precipitating thyself from the height of thy madness into the profound
abyss of thy simplicity."

But the barber, who had the same suspicion as the curate, asked
Don Quixote what would be his advice as to the measures that he said
ought to be adopted; for perhaps it might prove to be one that would
have to be added to the list of the many impertinent suggestions
that people were in the habit of offering to princes.

"Mine, master shaver," said Don Quixote, "will not be impertinent,
but, on the contrary, pertinent."

"I don't mean that," said the barber, "but that experience has shown
that all or most of the expedients which are proposed to his Majesty
are either impossible, or absurd, or injurious to the King and to
the kingdom."

"Mine, however," replied Don Quixote, "is neither impossible nor
absurd, but the easiest, the most reasonable, the readiest and most
expeditious that could suggest itself to any projector's mind."

"You take a long time to tell it, Senor Don Quixote," said the
curate.

"I don't choose to tell it here, now," said Don Quixote, "and have
it reach the ears of the lords of the council to-morrow morning, and
some other carry off the thanks and rewards of my trouble."

"For my part," said the barber, "I give my word here and before
God that I will not repeat what your worship says, to King, Rook or
earthly man- an oath I learned from the ballad of the curate, who,
in the prelude, told the king of the thief who had robbed him of the
hundred gold crowns and his pacing mule."

"I am not versed in stories," said Don Quixote; "but I know the oath
is a good one, because I know the barber to be an honest fellow."

"Even if he were not," said the curate, "I will go bail and answer
for him that in this matter he will be as silent as a dummy, under
pain of paying any penalty that may be pronounced."

"And who will be security for you, senor curate?" said Don Quixote.

"My profession," replied the curate, "which is to keep secrets."

"Ods body!" said Don Quixote at this, "what more has his Majesty
to do but to command, by public proclamation, all the knights-errant
that are scattered over Spain to assemble on a fixed day in the
capital, for even if no more than half a dozen come, there may be
one among them who alone will suffice to destroy the entire might of
the Turk. Give me your attention and follow me. Is it, pray, any new
thing for a single knight-errant to demolish an army of two hundred
thousand men, as if they all had but one throat or were made of
sugar paste? Nay, tell me, how many histories are there filled with
these marvels? If only (in an evil hour for me: I don't speak for
anyone else) the famous Don Belianis were alive now, or any one of the
innumerable progeny of Amadis of Gaul! If any these were alive
today, and were to come face to face with the Turk, by my faith, I
would not give much for the Turk's chance. But God will have regard
for his people, and will provide some one, who, if not so valiant as
the knights-errant of yore, at least will not be inferior to them in
spirit; but God knows what I mean, and I say no more."

"Alas!" exclaimed the niece at this, "may I die if my master does
not want to turn knight-errant again;" to which Don Quixote replied,
"A knight-errant I shall die, and let the Turk come down or go up when
he likes, and in as strong force as he can, once more I say, God knows
what I mean." But here the barber said, "I ask your worships to give
me leave to tell a short story of something that happened in
Seville, which comes so pat to the purpose just now that I should like
greatly to tell it." Don Quixote gave him leave, and the rest prepared
to listen, and he began thus:

"In the madhouse at Seville there was a man whom his relations had
placed there as being out of his mind. He was a graduate of Osuna in
canon law; but even if he had been of Salamanca, it was the opinion of
most people that he would have been mad all the same. This graduate,
after some years of confinement, took it into his head that he was
sane and in his full senses, and under this impression wrote to the
Archbishop, entreating him earnestly, and in very correct language, to
have him released from the misery in which he was living; for by God's
mercy he had now recovered his lost reason, though his relations, in
order to enjoy his property, kept him there, and, in spite of the
truth, would make him out to be mad until his dying day. The
Archbishop, moved by repeated sensible, well-written letters, directed
one of his chaplains to make inquiry of the madhouse as to the truth
of the licentiate's statements, and to have an interview with the
madman himself, and, if it should appear that he was in his senses, to
take him out and restore him to liberty. The chaplain did so, and
the governor assured him that the man was still mad, and that though
he often spoke like a highly intelligent person, he would in the end
break out into nonsense that in quantity and quality counterbalanced
all the sensible things he had said before, as might be easily
tested by talking to him. The chaplain resolved to try the experiment,
and obtaining access to the madman conversed with him for an hour or
more, during the whole of which time he never uttered a word that
was incoherent or absurd, but, on the contrary, spoke so rationally
that the chaplain was compelled to believe him to be sane. Among other
things, he said the governor was against him, not to lose the presents
his relations made him for reporting him still mad but with lucid
intervals; and that the worst foe he had in his misfortune was his
large property; for in order to enjoy it his enemies disparaged and
threw doubts upon the mercy our Lord had shown him in turning him from
a brute beast into a man. In short, he spoke in such a way that he
cast suspicion on the governor, and made his relations appear covetous
and heartless, and himself so rational that the chaplain determined to
take him away with him that the Archbishop might see him, and
ascertain for himself the truth of the matter. Yielding to this
conviction, the worthy chaplain begged the governor to have the
clothes in which the licentiate had entered the house given to him.
The governor again bade him beware of what he was doing, as the
licentiate was beyond a doubt still mad; but all his cautions and
warnings were unavailing to dissuade the chaplain from taking him
away. The governor, seeing that it was the order of the Archbishop,
obeyed, and they dressed the licentiate in his own clothes, which were
new and decent. He, as soon as he saw himself clothed like one in
his senses, and divested of the appearance of a madman, entreated
the chaplain to permit him in charity to go and take leave of his
comrades the madmen. The chaplain said he would go with him to see
what madmen there were in the house; so they went upstairs, and with
them some of those who were present. Approaching a cage in which there
was a furious madman, though just at that moment calm and quiet, the
licentiate said to him, 'Brother, think if you have any commands for
me, for I am going home, as God has been pleased, in his infinite
goodness and mercy, without any merit of mine, to restore me my
reason. I am now cured and in my senses, for with God's power
nothing is impossible. Have strong hope and trust in him, for as he
has restored me to my original condition, so likewise he will
restore you if you trust in him. I will take care to send you some
good things to eat; and be sure you eat them; for I would have you
know I am convinced, as one who has gone through it, that all this
madness of ours comes of having the stomach empty and the brains
full of wind. Take courage! take courage! for despondency in
misfortune breaks down health and brings on death.'

"To all these words of the licentiate another madman in a cage
opposite that of the furious one was listening; and raising himself up
from an old mat on which he lay stark naked, he asked in a loud
voice who it was that was going away cured and in his senses. The
licentiate answered, 'It is I, brother, who am going; I have now no
need to remain here any longer, for which I return infinite thanks
to Heaven that has had so great mercy upon me.'

"'Mind what you are saying, licentiate; don't let the devil
deceive you,' replied the madman. 'Keep quiet, stay where you are, and
you will save yourself the trouble of coming back.'

"'I know I am cured,' returned the licentiate, 'and that I shall not
have to go stations again.'

"'You cured!' said the madman; 'well, we shall see; God be with you;
but I swear to you by Jupiter, whose majesty I represent on earth,
that for this crime alone, which Seville is committing to-day in
releasing you from this house, and treating you as if you were in your
senses, I shall have to inflict such a punishment on it as will be
remembered for ages and ages, amen. Dost thou not know, thou miserable
little licentiate, that I can do it, being, as I say, Jupiter the
Thunderer, who hold in my hands the fiery bolts with which I am able
and am wont to threaten and lay waste the world? But in one way only
will I punish this ignorant town, and that is by not raining upon
it, nor on any part of its district or territory, for three whole
years, to be reckoned from the day and moment when this threat is
pronounced. Thou free, thou cured, thou in thy senses! and I mad, I
disordered, I bound! I will as soon think of sending rain as of
hanging myself.

"Those present stood listening to the words and exclamations of
the madman; but our licentiate, turning to the chaplain and seizing
him by the hands, said to him, 'Be not uneasy, senor; attach no
importance to what this madman has said; for if he is Jupiter and will
not send rain, I, who am Neptune, the father and god of the waters,
will rain as often as it pleases me and may be needful.'

"The governor and the bystanders laughed, and at their laughter
the chaplain was half ashamed, and he replied, 'For all that, Senor
Neptune, it will not do to vex Senor Jupiter; remain where you are,
and some other day, when there is a better opportunity and more
time, we will come back for you.' So they stripped the licentiate, and
he was left where he was; and that's the end of the story."

"So that's the story, master barber," said Don Quixote, "which
came in so pat to the purpose that you could not help telling it?
Master shaver, master shaver! how blind is he who cannot see through a
sieve. Is it possible that you do not know that comparisons of wit
with wit, valour with valour, beauty with beauty, birth with birth,
are always odious and unwelcome? I, master barber, am not Neptune, the
god of the waters, nor do I try to make anyone take me for an astute
man, for I am not one. My only endeavour is to convince the world of
the mistake it makes in not reviving in itself the happy time when the
order of knight-errantry was in the field. But our depraved age does
not deserve to enjoy such a blessing as those ages enjoyed when
knights-errant took upon their shoulders the defence of kingdoms,
the protection of damsels, the succour of orphans and minors, the
chastisement of the proud, and the recompense of the humble. With
the knights of these days, for the most part, it is the damask,
brocade, and rich stuffs they wear, that rustle as they go, not the
chain mail of their armour; no knight now-a-days sleeps in the open
field exposed to the inclemency of heaven, and in full panoply from
head to foot; no one now takes a nap, as they call it, without drawing
his feet out of the stirrups, and leaning upon his lance, as the
knights-errant used to do; no one now, issuing from the wood,
penetrates yonder mountains, and then treads the barren, lonely
shore of the sea- mostly a tempestuous and stormy one- and finding
on the beach a little bark without oars, sail, mast, or tackling of
any kind, in the intrepidity of his heart flings himself into it and
commits himself to the wrathful billows of the deep sea, that one
moment lift him up to heaven and the next plunge him into the
depths; and opposing his breast to the irresistible gale, finds
himself, when he least expects it, three thousand leagues and more
away from the place where he embarked; and leaping ashore in a
remote and unknown land has adventures that deserve to be written, not
on parchment, but on brass. But now sloth triumphs over energy,
indolence over exertion, vice over virtue, arrogance over courage, and
theory over practice in arms, which flourished and shone only in the
golden ages and in knights-errant. For tell me, who was more
virtuous and more valiant than the famous Amadis of Gaul? Who more
discreet than Palmerin of England? Who more gracious and easy than
Tirante el Blanco? Who more courtly than Lisuarte of Greece? Who
more slashed or slashing than Don Belianis? Who more intrepid than
Perion of Gaul? Who more ready to face danger than Felixmarte of
Hircania? Who more sincere than Esplandian? Who more impetuous than
Don Cirongilio of Thrace? Who more bold than Rodamonte? Who more
prudent than King Sobrino? Who more daring than Reinaldos? Who more
invincible than Roland? and who more gallant and courteous than
Ruggiero, from whom the dukes of Ferrara of the present day are
descended, according to Turpin in his 'Cosmography.' All these
knights, and many more that I could name, senor curate, were
knights-errant, the light and glory of chivalry. These, or such as
these, I would have to carry out my plan, and in that case his Majesty
would find himself well served and would save great expense, and the
Turk would be left tearing his beard. And so I will stay where I am,
as the chaplain does not take me away; and if Jupiter, as the barber
has told us, will not send rain, here am I, and I will rain when I
please. I say this that Master Basin may know that I understand him."

"Indeed, Senor Don Quixote," said the barber, "I did not mean it
in that way, and, so help me God, my intention was good, and your
worship ought not to be vexed."

"As to whether I ought to be vexed or not," returned Don Quixote, "I
myself am the best judge."

Hereupon the curate observed, "I have hardly said a word as yet; and
I would gladly be relieved of a doubt, arising from what Don Quixote
has said, that worries and works my conscience."

"The senor curate has leave for more than that," returned Don
Quixote, "so he may declare his doubt, for it is not pleasant to
have a doubt on one's conscience."

"Well then, with that permission," said the curate, "I say my
doubt is that, all I can do, I cannot persuade myself that the whole
pack of knights-errant you, Senor Don Quixote, have mentioned, were
really and truly persons of flesh and blood, that ever lived in the
world; on the contrary, I suspect it to be all fiction, fable, and
falsehood, and dreams told by men awakened from sleep, or rather still
half asleep."

"That is another mistake," replied Don Quixote, "into which many
have fallen who do not believe that there ever were such knights in
the world, and I have often, with divers people and on divers
occasions, tried to expose this almost universal error to the light of
truth. Sometimes I have not been successful in my purpose, sometimes I
have, supporting it upon the shoulders of the truth; which truth is so
clear that I can almost say I have with my own eyes seen Amadis of
Gaul, who was a man of lofty stature, fair complexion, with a handsome
though black beard, of a countenance between gentle and stern in
expression, sparing of words, slow to anger, and quick to put it
away from him; and as I have depicted Amadis, so I could, I think,
portray and describe all the knights-errant that are in all the
histories in the world; for by the perception I have that they were
what their histories describe, and by the deeds they did and the
dispositions they displayed, it is possible, with the aid of sound
philosophy, to deduce their features, complexion, and stature."

"How big, in your worship's opinion, may the giant Morgante have
been, Senor Don Quixote?" asked the barber.

"With regard to giants," replied Don Quixote, "opinions differ as to
whether there ever were any or not in the world; but the Holy
Scripture, which cannot err by a jot from the truth, shows us that
there were, when it gives us the history of that big Philistine,
Goliath, who was seven cubits and a half in height, which is a huge
size. Likewise, in the island of Sicily, there have been found
leg-bones and arm-bones so large that their size makes it plain that
their owners were giants, and as tall as great towers; geometry puts
this fact beyond a doubt. But, for all that, I cannot speak with
certainty as to the size of Morgante, though I suspect he cannot
have been very tall; and I am inclined to be of this opinion because I
find in the history in which his deeds are particularly mentioned,
that he frequently slept under a roof and as he found houses to
contain him, it is clear that his bulk could not have been anything
excessive."

"That is true," said the curate, and yielding to the enjoyment of
hearing such nonsense, he asked him what was his notion of the
features of Reinaldos of Montalban, and Don Roland and the rest of the
Twelve Peers of France, for they were all knights-errant.

"As for Reinaldos," replied Don Quixote, "I venture to say that he
was broad-faced, of ruddy complexion, with roguish and somewhat
prominent eyes, excessively punctilious and touchy, and given to the
society of thieves and scapegraces. With regard to Roland, or
Rotolando, or Orlando (for the histories call him by all these names),
I am of opinion, and hold, that he was of middle height,
broad-shouldered, rather bow-legged, swarthy-complexioned,
red-bearded, with a hairy body and a severe expression of countenance,
a man of few words, but very polite and well-bred."

"If Roland was not a more graceful person than your worship has
described," said the curate, "it is no wonder that the fair Lady
Angelica rejected him and left him for the gaiety, liveliness, and
grace of that budding-bearded little Moor to whom she surrendered
herself; and she showed her sense in falling in love with the gentle
softness of Medoro rather than the roughness of Roland."

"That Angelica, senor curate," returned Don Quixote, "was a giddy
damsel, flighty and somewhat wanton, and she left the world as full of
her vagaries as of the fame of her beauty. She treated with scorn a
thousand gentlemen, men of valour and wisdom, and took up with a
smooth-faced sprig of a page, without fortune or fame, except such
reputation for gratitude as the affection he bore his friend got for
him. The great poet who sang her beauty, the famous Ariosto, not
caring to sing her adventures after her contemptible surrender
(which probably were not over and above creditable), dropped her where
he says:

How she received the sceptre of Cathay,
Some bard of defter quill may sing some day;

and this was no doubt a kind of prophecy, for poets are also called
vates, that is to say diviners; and its truth was made plain; for
since then a famous Andalusian poet has lamented and sung her tears,
and another famous and rare poet, a Castilian, has sung her beauty."

"Tell me, Senor Don Quixote," said the barber here, "among all those
who praised her, has there been no poet to write a satire on this Lady
Angelica?"

"I can well believe," replied Don Quixote, "that if Sacripante or
Roland had been poets they would have given the damsel a trimming; for
it is naturally the way with poets who have been scorned and
rejected by their ladies, whether fictitious or not, in short by those
whom they select as the ladies of their thoughts, to avenge themselves
in satires and libels- a vengeance, to be sure, unworthy of generous
hearts; but up to the present I have not heard of any defamatory verse
against the Lady Angelica, who turned the world upside down."

"Strange," said the curate; but at this moment they heard the
housekeeper and the niece, who had previously withdrawn from the
conversation, exclaiming aloud in the courtyard, and at the noise they
all ran out.




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