eBooks Cube
 
CHAPTER XXIV

WHEREIN ARE RELATED A THOUSAND TRIFLING MATTERS, AS TRIVIAL AS
THEY ARE NECESSARY TO THE RIGHT UNDERSTANDING OF THIS GREAT HISTORY

He who translated this great history from the original written by
its first author, Cide Hamete Benengeli, says that on coming to the
chapter giving the adventures of the cave of Montesinos he found
written on the margin of it, in Hamete's own hand, these exact words:

"I cannot convince or persuade myself that everything that is
written in the preceding chapter could have precisely happened to
the valiant Don Quixote; and for this reason, that all the
adventures that have occurred up to the present have been possible and
probable; but as for this one of the cave, I see no way of accepting
it as true, as it passes all reasonable bounds. For me to believe that
Don Quixote could lie, he being the most truthful gentleman and the
noblest knight of his time, is impossible; he would not have told a
lie though he were shot to death with arrows. On the other hand, I
reflect that he related and told the story with all the
circumstances detailed, and that he could not in so short a space have
fabricated such a vast complication of absurdities; if, then, this
adventure seems apocryphal, it is no fault of mine; and so, without
affirming its falsehood or its truth, I write it down. Decide for
thyself in thy wisdom, reader; for I am not bound, nor is it in my
power, to do more; though certain it is they say that at the time of
his death he retracted, and said he had invented it, thinking it
matched and tallied with the adventures he had read of in his
histories." And then he goes on to say:

The cousin was amazed as well at Sancho's boldness as at the
patience of his master, and concluded that the good temper the
latter displayed arose from the happiness he felt at having seen his
lady Dulcinea, even enchanted as she was; because otherwise the
words and language Sancho had addressed to him deserved a thrashing;
for indeed he seemed to him to have been rather impudent to his
master, to whom he now observed, "I, Senor Don Quixote of La Mancha,
look upon the time I have spent in travelling with your worship as
very well employed, for I have gained four things in the course of it;
the first is that I have made your acquaintance, which I consider
great good fortune; the second, that I have learned what the cave of
Montesinos contains, together with the transformations of Guadiana and
of the lakes of Ruidera; which will be of use to me for the Spanish
Ovid that I have in hand; the third, to have discovered the
antiquity of cards, that they were in use at least in the time of
Charlemagne, as may be inferred from the words you say Durandarte
uttered when, at the end of that long spell while Montesinos was
talking to him, he woke up and said, 'Patience and shuffle.' This
phrase and expression he could not have learned while he was
enchanted, but only before he had become so, in France, and in the
time of the aforesaid emperor Charlemagne. And this demonstration is
just the thing for me for that other book I am writing, the
'Supplement to Polydore Vergil on the Invention of Antiquities;' for I
believe he never thought of inserting that of cards in his book, as
I mean to do in mine, and it will be a matter of great importance,
particularly when I can cite so grave and veracious an authority as
Senor Durandarte. And the fourth thing is, that I have ascertained the
source of the river Guadiana, heretofore unknown to mankind."

"You are right," said Don Quixote; "but I should like to know, if by
God's favour they grant you a licence to print those books of yours-
which I doubt- to whom do you mean dedicate them?"

"There are lords and grandees in Spain to whom they can be
dedicated," said the cousin.

"Not many," said Don Quixote; "not that they are unworthy of it, but
because they do not care to accept books and incur the obligation of
making the return that seems due to the author's labour and
courtesy. One prince I know who makes up for all the rest, and more-
how much more, if I ventured to say, perhaps I should stir up envy
in many a noble breast; but let this stand over for some more
convenient time, and let us go and look for some place to shelter
ourselves in to-night."

"Not far from this," said the cousin, "there is a hermitage, where
there lives a hermit, who they say was a soldier, and who has the
reputation of being a good Christian and a very intelligent and
charitable man. Close to the hermitage he has a small house which he
built at his own cost, but though small it is large enough for the
reception of guests."

"Has this hermit any hens, do you think?" asked Sancho.

"Few hermits are without them," said Don Quixote; "for those we
see now-a-days are not like the hermits of the Egyptian deserts who
were clad in palm-leaves, and lived on the roots of the earth. But
do not think that by praising these I am disparaging the others; all I
mean to say is that the penances of those of the present day do not
come up to the asceticism and austerity of former times; but it does
not follow from this that they are not all worthy; at least I think
them so; and at the worst the hypocrite who pretends to be good does
less harm than the open sinner."

At this point they saw approaching the spot where they stood a man
on foot, proceeding at a rapid pace, and beating a mule loaded with
lances and halberds. When he came up to them, he saluted them and
passed on without stopping. Don Quixote called to him, "Stay, good
fellow; you seem to be making more haste than suits that mule."

"I cannot stop, senor," answered the man; "for the arms you see I
carry here are to be used tomorrow, so I must not delay; God be with
you. But if you want to know what I am carrying them for, I mean to
lodge to-night at the inn that is beyond the hermitage, and if you
be going the same road you will find me there, and I will tell you
some curious things; once more God be with you;" and he urged on his
mule at such a pace that Don Quixote had no time to ask him what these
curious things were that he meant to tell them; and as he was somewhat
inquisitive, and always tortured by his anxiety to learn something
new, he decided to set out at once, and go and pass the night at the
inn instead of stopping at the hermitage, where the cousin would
have had them halt. Accordingly they mounted and all three took the
direct road for the inn, which they reached a little before nightfall.
On the road the cousin proposed they should go up to the hermitage
to drink a sup. The instant Sancho heard this he steered his Dapple
towards it, and Don Quixote and the cousin did the same; but it
seems Sancho's bad luck so ordered it that the hermit was not at home,
for so a sub-hermit they found in the hermitage told them. They called
for some of the best. She replied that her master had none, but that
if they liked cheap water she would give it with great pleasure.

"If I found any in water," said Sancho, "there are wells along the
road where I could have had enough of it. Ah, Camacho's wedding, and
plentiful house of Don Diego, how often do I miss you!"

Leaving the hermitage, they pushed on towards the inn, and a
little farther they came upon a youth who was pacing along in front of
them at no great speed, so that they overtook him. He carried a
sword over his shoulder, and slung on it a budget or bundle of his
clothes apparently, probably his breeches or pantaloons, and his cloak
and a shirt or two; for he had on a short jacket of velvet with a
gloss like satin on it in places, and had his shirt out; his stockings
were of silk, and his shoes square-toed as they wear them at court.
His age might have been eighteen or nineteen; he was of a merry
countenance, and to all appearance of an active habit, and he went
along singing seguidillas to beguile the wearisomeness of the road. As
they came up with him he was just finishing one, which the cousin
got by heart and they say ran thus-

I'm off to the wars
For the want of pence,
Oh, had I but money
I'd show more sense.


The first to address him was Don Quixote, who said, "You travel very
airily, sir gallant; whither bound, may we ask, if it is your pleasure
to tell us?"

To which the youth replied, "The heat and my poverty are the
reason of my travelling so airily, and it is to the wars that I am
bound."

"How poverty?" asked Don Quixote; "the heat one can understand."

"Senor," replied the youth, "in this bundle I carry velvet
pantaloons to match this jacket; if I wear them out on the road, I
shall not be able to make a decent appearance in them in the city, and
I have not the wherewithal to buy others; and so for this reason, as
well as to keep myself cool, I am making my way in this fashion to
overtake some companies of infantry that are not twelve leagues off,
in which I shall enlist, and there will be no want of baggage trains
to travel with after that to the place of embarkation, which they
say will be Carthagena; I would rather have the King for a master, and
serve him in the wars, than serve a court pauper."

"And did you get any bounty, now?" asked the cousin.

"If I had been in the service of some grandee of Spain or
personage of distinction," replied the youth, "I should have been safe
to get it; for that is the advantage of serving good masters, that out
of the servants' hall men come to be ancients or captains, or get a
good pension. But I, to my misfortune, always served place-hunters and
adventurers, whose keep and wages were so miserable and scanty that
half went in paying for the starching of one's collars; it would be
a miracle indeed if a page volunteer ever got anything like a
reasonable bounty."

"And tell me, for heaven's sake," asked Don Quixote, "is it
possible, my friend, that all the time you served you never got any
livery?"

"They gave me two," replied the page; "but just as when one quits
a religious community before making profession, they strip him of
the dress of the order and give him back his own clothes, so did my
masters return me mine; for as soon as the business on which they came
to court was finished, they went home and took back the liveries
they had given merely for show."

"What spilorceria!- as an Italian would say," said Don Quixote; "but
for all that, consider yourself happy in having left court with as
worthy an object as you have, for there is nothing on earth more
honourable or profitable than serving, first of all God, and then
one's king and natural lord, particularly in the profession of arms,
by which, if not more wealth, at least more honour is to be won than
by letters, as I have said many a time; for though letters may have
founded more great houses than arms, still those founded by arms
have I know not what superiority over those founded by letters, and
a certain splendour belonging to them that distinguishes them above
all. And bear in mind what I am now about to say to you, for it will
be of great use and comfort to you in time of trouble; it is, not to
let your mind dwell on the adverse chances that may befall you; for
the worst of all is death, and if it be a good death, the best of
all is to die. They asked Julius Caesar, the valiant Roman emperor,
what was the best death. He answered, that which is unexpected,
which comes suddenly and unforeseen; and though he answered like a
pagan, and one without the knowledge of the true God, yet, as far as
sparing our feelings is concerned, he was right; for suppose you are
killed in the first engagement or skirmish, whether by a cannon ball
or blown up by mine, what matters it? It is only dying, and all is
over; and according to Terence, a soldier shows better dead in battle,
than alive and safe in flight; and the good soldier wins fame in
proportion as he is obedient to his captains and those in command over
him. And remember, my son, that it is better for the soldier to
smell of gunpowder than of civet, and that if old age should come upon
you in this honourable calling, though you may be covered with
wounds and crippled and lame, it will not come upon you without
honour, and that such as poverty cannot lessen; especially now that
provisions are being made for supporting and relieving old and
disabled soldiers; for it is not right to deal with them after the
fashion of those who set free and get rid of their black slaves when
they are old and useless, and, turning them out of their houses
under the pretence of making them free, make them slaves to hunger,
from which they cannot expect to be released except by death. But
for the present I won't say more than get ye up behind me on my
horse as far as the inn, and sup with me there, and to-morrow you
shall pursue your journey, and God give you as good speed as your
intentions deserve."

The page did not accept the invitation to mount, though he did
that to supper at the inn; and here they say Sancho said to himself,
"God be with you for a master; is it possible that a man who can say
things so many and so good as he has said just now, can say that he
saw the impossible absurdities he reports about the cave of
Montesinos? Well, well, we shall see."

And now, just as night was falling, they reached the inn, and it was
not without satisfaction that Sancho perceived his master took it
for a real inn, and not for a castle as usual. The instant they
entered Don Quixote asked the landlord after the man with the lances
and halberds, and was told that he was in the stable seeing to his
mule; which was what Sancho and the cousin proceeded to do for their
beasts, giving the best manger and the best place in the stable to
Rocinante.




Don Quixote by Migeul de Cervantes
Category:
Romance Literature - Spanish
Nabou.com: the big site