Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

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Chapter II. Which deals with the first expedition that the ingenious don Quixote made.
Having made these preparations, he didn’t want to waste any time putting his plan into effect. He was distressed at how the world was suffering because of his delay, such were the wrongs he planned to right, the injustices to rectify, the abuses to mend, and the debts to settle. Thus, without telling anyone at all of his intentions, and without anyone seeing him, one morning—one of the hottest ones of the month of July—he put on all his armor, mounted Rocinante, and with his poorly mended helmet in place, he clasped his shield, took his lance, and went out into the countryside­ through the back gate of the corral, enormously happy and exhilarated at seeing how easily he’d begun his worthy enterprise.

But no sooner was he in the open countryside than he was assailed by a terrible thought, such that he almost gave up his just-begun undertaking, and that was that he’d not yet been dubbed a knight, and, in accordance with the laws of chivalry, he couldn’t, nor shouldn’t, take up arms against any knight. And even if he’d been so dubbed, as a novice knight he would have to wear plain armor—with no device on his shield—un­til he’d earned that right through his travails. These thoughts made him waver in his purpose, but since his madness overcame his reason, he resolved to have himself so dubbed by the first knight he came across, in imitation of many others who did exactly that, according to the books that had brought him to that state. As for the plain armor, he planned to scour it when he had the time, so as to make it whiter than ermine. And with this he calmed down and continued his journey, taking the road his horse chose, believing that was what the spirit of adventure called for.

As our brand-new adventurer went ambling along, he talked to himself, saying: “Who can doubt that in years to come, when the true history of my famous exploits comes to light, the enchanter96 who will write about them, when he comes to relate this first expedition of mine, will begin this way: ‘Scarcely had the ruddy Apollo97 begun to spread the golden tresses of his beautiful hair over the vast surface of the earthly globe, and scarcely had the pretty painted birds with their harmonious tongues greeted in sweet, melodious strains the fair Aurora,98 who, having left her jealous husband’s99 bed, appeared at the gates and balconies of the Manche­gan horizon, when the renowned knight don Quixote de La Mancha, forsaking the soft down, and mounting his famous steed Rocinante, entered the ancient and celebrated Plains of Montiel.’  ” And it was true, because he was on those very plains!

And he went on saying: “What a happy age and equally happy era when my famous deeds—worthy of being sculpted in bronze, carved in marble, and painted on panels—will come to light for future remembrance. Oh, wise­ en­chanter—whoever you may be—you, who have been chosen to be the chronicler of this uncommon history, I beg you not to forget Rocinante, my constant companion along these highways and byways!”

Then he went on to say, as if he were really in love: “Oh, Dulcinea del Toboso, mistress of this captive heart! You’ve done me a grievous wrong in dismissing and banishing me with your harsh command, forbidding me to appear before your beauteous person. May it please you, lady, to remember this subjected heart of yours, which suffers so many sorrows for your love.” Along with this, he began stringing together more nonsense, all of it in the same style that the books of chivalry had taught him, imitating their language as much as he could. He moved so slowly, and the sun beat down upon him with such intensity, that it was enough to melt his brains, if he had any.

He traveled almost all of that day without anything happening that was worth relating, for which he despaired, because he wanted to come across someone right then to whom he could prove the valor of his mighty arm. There are authorities who say his first adventure was the one in Puerto Lápice,100 others say it was the one with the windmills, but what I’ve been able to verify, and what I’ve found written in the Annals of La Mancha, is that he traveled that whole day, and at nightfall his nag and he were dead tired and ravenously hungry. He looked all around to see if he could find some castle or a shepherd’s hut where he could be sheltered, and remedy his considerable hunger and other needs, when he saw—not far off the road on which he was traveling—an inn, which was as if he’d seen a star leading him, not to the gates, but rather to the palaces of his relief. He picked up speed and arrived there just as it was getting dark.

By chance there were at the entrance two young women, of those that they call tarts, who were going to Seville with some muleteers who happened to be spending the night there. And since everything he thought, saw, or imagined, seemed to him to be in the style of what he’d read, as soon as he saw the inn, it appeared to him to be a castle with four towers and pinnacles of shining silver, not lacking a drawbridge and a deep moat, with all the accoutrements with which such castles are depicted.

As he approached the inn, which to him seemed to be a castle, a short distance away from it he reined in Rocinante, expecting that some dwarf would appear among the battlements to announce with a trumpet that a knight was drawing near to the castle. But since he realized it was getting late, and Rocinante was anxious to go to the stable, he proceeded to the gate of the inn and saw the two wanton young women there, who—it appeared to him—were two beautiful maidens or gracious ladies taking their ease at the gate of the castle. Just then a swineherd, who by chance was gathering his pigs (I beg no pardon, since that’s what they’re called) from a harvested field, sounded his horn to round them up, and this appeared to don Quixote to be exactly what he wanted—a dwarf announcing his arrival.

Thus, with enormous satisfaction, don Quixote approached the inn and the ladies. When they saw a man in armor like that, with lance and shield, they were filled with fear, and began to rush into the inn. But don Quixote, deducing their fear from their flight, raised his pasteboard visor, and, revealing his dry and grimy face, with gentle mien and calm voice, said to them: “Do not flee, your graces, nor fear any wrongdoing, for the order of chivalry that I profess does not allow me to wrong anyone, least of all maidens of high rank such as you show yourselves to be.”

The young women looked at him trying to make out the features of his face, which the ill-made visor was covering, but when they heard themselves being called maidens, something so far from their profession, they couldn’t restrain their laughter. Don Quixote got into quite a huff because of this and said to them: “Politeness is becoming in beautiful women, and laughter that comes from a trifling cause is great folly. I’m not telling you this so that you’ll be distressed or to make you angry, for my will is none other than to serve you.”

This kind of language, which the ladies didn’t understand, coupled with the strange aspect of our knight, increased their laughter, and his anger, and it would have gotten worse if at that moment the innkeeper hadn’t appeared. He, being quite fat, was very easy-going. And seeing that strange figure, with such an odd assortment of arms and other things, such as the long stirrups, lance, shield, and torso armor, he was almost at the point of joining the damsels in their show of mirth. But fearing all that weaponry, he resolved to speak with him courteously, and said: “If your grace, señor knight, is looking for lodging, except for a bed, since there’s none left at this inn, you’ll find everything else in great abundance.”

Don Quixote, seeing the humility of the warden of the castle, since that’s what he appeared to him to be, responded: “For me, señor castellano,101 anything will do since «my only adornments are my armor, my only rest is the battle».”

The innkeeper, hearing himself being called castellano, guessed it must have been because the knight thought he was one of the good people from Castile,102 although he was Andalusian, one of those from the Playa de San Lúcar, and no less a thief than Cacus, nor less a trickster than a mischievous page.

“In that case «the bed» of your grace will be «hard rocks» and «your sleep, constant vigilance».103 And that being the case, you can dismount, since you’re sure to find in this humble house sufficient opportunity not to sleep in a whole year, not to mention just a single night.”

And saying this, he went to hold don Quixote’s stirrup. He got down with considerable difficulty and strain, like a person who had not eaten a bite all day long. He then told the innkeeper to take great care of his horse because there was no better one in the world. The innkeeper looked at the horse and it didn’t seem to him to be as good as don Quixote was saying, and not even half as good, but he took him to the stable and went back to see what his guest might want. The two damsels were removing his armor, for they had since made peace with him. Although they had removed the breastplate and backplate, they couldn’t figure out how to remove the gorget,104 nor take off the badly-made helmet that he was wearing, tied together with some green ribbons. They wanted to cut them since they couldn’t be untied, but he wouldn’t allow it, so he spent the whole night with his helmet on, and he was the funniest and strangest figure imaginable. And while they were removing his armor, since he imagined those prostitutes were important ladies in that castle, he said to them with considerable grace:
There never was on earth a knight

so waited on by ladies fair,

as once was he, called don Quixote,

when first he left his village dear;

Damsels to undress him ran with speed,

and princesses to dress his steed.105

“or Rocinante, for this is the name, my ladies, of my horse, and mine is don Quixote de La Mancha. Although I didn’t want to reveal my name until the deeds done in your service and on your behalf made me known, adapting that ancient ballad about Lancelot seemed so à propos that I let you know who I am before I should have. But a time will come when your graces will command me and I’ll obey, and the strength of my arm will make known my desire to serve you.”

The young women, who were not accustomed to hearing such rhetoric, said nothing. They asked him only if he wanted something to eat.

“I’ll eat anything,” responded don Quixote, “because I feel that it would do me a lot of good.”

By chance, that day happened to be Friday, and there was nothing in the inn but a couple of servings of fish that in Castile they call abadejo, in Andalusia bacalao, in some areas curadillo, and in other areas truchuela.106 They asked him if he would eat some truchuela since there was no other fish to give him to eat.

“If there are a lot of truchuelas,” responded don Quixote, “it will be the same as a full-size trout. It’s all the same to me if you give me eight reales in coins or one piece-of-eight. And it may even be that these truchuelas are like veal, which is better than beef; and kid, which is better than goat. But be that as it may, serve me right way, because the ordeal of the weight of armor cannot be borne on an empty stomach.”

They set a table for him near the door of the inn in the fresh air. The innkeeper took him a serving of badly marinated and worse-cooked codfish, and a piece of bread that was as black and grimy as his armor. It was really very amusing to see him eat because, since he had his helmet on and had to use his two hands to keep the visor up, he couldn’t put anything in his mouth, and had to depend on someone else to feed him. One of the ladies did this service for him. But it would have been impossible for him to drink anything if the innkeeper hadn’t bored out a reed, put one end of it in his mouth, and poured wine down the other. He ate and drank very patiently so that he wouldn’t break the ribbons of the helmet.

While this was going on, by chance there arrived at the inn a gelder of pigs, and as soon as he arrived, he played four or five notes on his pan pipes, which confirmed to don Quixote that he was in a famous castle and that they were serving him accompanied by music; the codfish was trout; the bread of whitest flour; the prostitutes, ladies; the innkeeper, the warden of the castle; and so he felt that his resolve to go out into the world was the right thing to have done. But what bothered him was that he’d not yet been dubbed a knight, and he felt that he couldn’t legitimately undertake any adventure without receiving the order of knighthood.

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