Chapter IIII. About what happened to our knight when he left the inn. It was just about sunrise when don Quixote left the inn, so happy, so gallant, so exhilarated at seeing himself knighted, that his joy was bursting the girths of his horse. But remembering his host’s counsel about the necessary provisions he should take with him, especially concerning money and clean shirts, he decided to return home and supply himself with everything, and to find a squire. He planned to hire a peasant, a neighbor of his who was poor and had children, but who was very well-suited for the occupation of squire to a knight. With this thought he guided Rocinante toward his village. The horse, realizing he was heading back to the stable, began a brisk trot with such enthusiasm that his feet hardly seemed to touch the ground.
Don Quixote hadn’t gone very far when he thought he heard a faint voice off to the right, as if from a person in distress, coming from the dense part of a grove. As soon as he heard it, he said: “I give thanks to heaven for the favor it has done me, since it has so soon given me a chance to live up to what my profession demands, and an opportunity to reap the fruit of my worthy desires. This voice is doubtless coming from a person in trouble who requires my protection and aid.”
And turning his reins, he led Rocinante toward the place from which it seemed to him the voice was coming. A bit into the grove he saw a mare tied to an oak tree, and tied to another oak was a boy about fifteen years old, naked from the waist up, who was the one crying out, and not without reason, since a good-sized peasant was whipping him with a belt, and each lash was accompanied by a reprimand and reproof, because he was saying: “Keep your mouth shut and your eyes open.”
And the boy responded: “I won’t do it again, master. By the passion of God, I won’t do it again—and I promise to take better care of the flock from now on!”
When don Quixote saw what was going on, he said with an angry voice: “Ill-bred knight, it’s not right to take on one who cannot defend himself. Get on your horse and pick up your lance”—because there was one leaning against the tree where the horse was tied—“and I’ll make you see that you’re acting like a coward!”
The peasant, seeing that armored figure above him brandishing a lance over his face, gave himself up for dead, and with humble words he replied: “Señor knight, this boy I’m punishing is one of my hired hands who watches over a flock of sheep I have in these parts, and he’s so careless that he loses one every day. And because I’m punishing his negligence—or roguery—he says that I’m doing it out of stinginess, so as not to pay him the salary I owe him, and by God and my soul, he’s lying.”
“You say that someone is lying, in my presence,113 you wretched rustic!” said don Quixote. “By the sun that shines on us, I’m about to run you through with this lance. Pay him right now without saying another word! And if you don’t, by the God who rules over us, I’ll finish you off and annihilate you on the spot. Untie him right now!”
The peasant hung his head, and without responding, untied his hired hand whom don Quixote asked how much he was owed. He said that it was nine months at seven reales per month. Don Quixote did the math and found that it came to seventy-three reales, and told the peasant to pay him immediately, unless he wanted to die for it. The fearful rustic replied, on the word of one who was about to die, and on the oath he’d sworn—and he hadn’t sworn anything yet—that it wasn’t that much, because three pairs of shoes and one real for two bloodlettings when he was sick should be deducted and credited.
“All that is very good,” responded don Quixote, “but let the shoes and bloodlettings pay him back for the lashes that you’ve given him without his being to blame. If he broke the leather of his shoes you paid for, you’ve broken the skin of his body; and if the barber let blood from him when he was sick, you’ve taken it from him when he was well. So, on this account, he owes you nothing.”
“The trouble is, señor knight, that I have no money on me. Let Andrés come home with me and I’ll pay him one real on top of another.”
“Go with him, again?” said the boy. “No way, no señor, not in a million years, because when he has me alone, he’ll flay me like St. Bartholomew.”114
“He’ll do nothing of the kind,” said don Quixote. “It’s enough for me to command him and he’ll do what I ask; and provided that he swears by the laws of knighthood that he has received, I’ll release him on his own recognizance, and I’ll guarantee your pay.”
“Your grace, señor, consider what you’re saying,” said the boy. “This master of mine is not a knight, nor has he received any order of knighthood. This fellow is Juan Haldudo, the Rich, who lives in El Quintanar.”115
“That’s not very important,” responded don Quixote, “because there can be Haldudos who are knights, especially since every person is the child of his works.”
“That’s true enough,” said Andrés, “but this master of mine, of what works is he the child, since he denies me my pay, my sweat, and my work?”
“I don’t deny you anything of the kind, brother Andrés,” responded the peasant. “Do me the pleasure of coming with me. I swear by all the orders of knighthood in the world to pay you, as I’ve said, one real on top of another, and I’ll even throw in a bit extra.”
“You don’t need to give him any extra,” said don Quixote. “Pay him the reales and I’ll be satisfied. And take care to do what you swore. If you don’t, by the same oath, I swear I’ll come back and punish you, and I’ll find you even if you conceal yourself better than a chameleon. And if you want to know who has given you this command, so that you’ll be even more obliged to fulfill it, I’m the valiant don Quixote de La Mancha, the redresser of wrongs and injustices. Don’t forget what you’ve promised and sworn, under the penalty of what I said.”
When he said this, he spurred Rocinante, and in a moment was gone. The peasant followed him with his eyes, and when he saw that he’d left the grove and was no longer in sight, he turned to his hired hand Andrés, and said: “Come here, my son. I want to pay you what I owe, as that righter of wrongs commanded me.”
“I swear,” said the boy, “that your worship will do well to obey the command of that good knight—may he live a thousand years!—because he’s so courageous and such an upright judge; and by San Roque, if you don’t pay me, he’ll come back and do what he said!”
“I swear as well,” said the peasant, “but because I love you so much, I want to increase the debt so I can increase the pay.”
And grabbing the boy by his arm, he tied him back up to the oak, where he gave him so many lashes that he left him for dead.
“Señor Andrés,” said the peasant, “call that righter of wrongs back now, and you’ll see how he doesn’t fix this one, although I may not be finished yet, because I feel like flaying you alive, just as you feared.”
But finally he untied him and said he could go looking for that judge so that he could carry out the sentence. Andrés went away a bit mournful, swearing he would look for the brave don Quixote de La Mancha and tell him exactly what had happened, and that he would have to pay sevenfold. But for all that, he went away crying, and his master stayed behind laughing.
And in this way the brave don Quixote redressed that wrong. He was very delighted with the way things had turned out. It seemed to him that he’d given a very auspicious and noble beginning to his chivalric venture, and with great self-satisfaction, he ambled back toward his village, saying softly: “You can well call yourself the most fortunate of women—oh, fairest of the fair, Dulcinea del Toboso!—since it befell your destiny to have subjected and surrendered to your will such a famous knight as is don Quixote de La Mancha, who, as everyone knows, just yesterday received the order of knighthood, and today has redressed the greatest injury that injustice ever created and cruelty ever committed. Today he took the whip from that heartless enemy who was lashing that helpless boy so unjustly.”
At that point, he came to a place where the road divided into four, and remembered the crossroads where knights errant would consider which road to take; and to imitate them, he paused quietly for a while. After having deliberated about what to do, he released the reins, leaving it up to Rocinante to decide on the route, and the horse stuck to his original plan, which was to head for the stable. After traveling about two miles, don Quixote saw a crowd of people who, as it was later learned, were Toledan merchants on their way to buy silk in Murcia.116 There were six of them, each one with a parasol, and there were four other servants on horseback, and three mule-boys on foot.
Hardly had don Quixote sighted them when he fancied a new adventure was at hand. And to imitate the exploits he’d read about in his books as closely as possible, what he planned to do seemed made to order. Thus, with graceful bearing and boldness, he firmly planted himself in his stirrups, clutched his lance, put his shield at his chest, and in the middle of the road waited for those knights errant—for that’s what he judged them to be—to arrive; and when they were at a distance where they could see and hear, don Quixote raised his voice and shouted arrogantly: “Everyone stop right now and confess that there’s no more beautiful a maiden in the world than the Empress of La Mancha, the peerless Dulcinea del Toboso!”
The merchants stopped when they heard what was being said so they could look at the strange figure who was speaking, and by his appearance and words, they deduced his craziness. But they wanted to see where that confession they were being asked to give was leading. One of them, who was something of a jokester, and very witty, said to him: “Señor knight, we don’t know who this good lady is that you’re talking about. Show her to us, and if she’s as beautiful as you declare, we’ll confess the truth you’ve asked of us, with pleasure and without any compunction.”
“If I were to show her to you,” replied don Quixote, “what good would there be in confessing such an obvious truth? The important thing is for you to believe, confess, affirm, swear, and defend it, without having seen her. If not, you’ll be in battle with me, monstrous and arrogant people. You can attack one at a time, as the laws of chivalry have ordered, or all at once, as is the custom and wicked practice of people of your breed. Here I stand, waiting for you, confident that I have right on my side.”
“Señor knight,” replied the merchant, “I beg your grace, in the name of all these princes, to save us from burdening our consciences by confessing something that we haven’t seen or heard, and something so prejudicial to the empresses and queens of La Alcarria and Extremadura.117 Would you please show us a portrait of this lady, even though it’s only as big as a grain of wheat, for «by the yarn we can judge the skein»; and we’ll be satisfied and assured, and you’ll be content and appeased. And I even think that we’re in such agreement with you that—even if the portrait shows that she’s blind in one eye and from the other she oozes vermillion and sulphur—we will, to please you, say everything in her favor that you wish.”
“She doesn’t ooze, despicable rabble,” responded don Quixote, aflame with rage, “she doesn’t ooze, I say, anything that you mention, except ambergris and civet packed in cotton, and she isn’t one-eyed or hunchbacked, but rather straighter than a spindle from Guadarrama.118 But you’ll pay for the blasphemy you’ve committed against such great beauty as is that of my lady!”
And saying this, he attacked the man who had said it with his lance lowered, so filled with fury and anger that, if good fortune hadn’t arranged for Rocinante to trip and fall in the middle of the road, the impudent merchant would have had a bad time of it. Rocinante fell, and his master went rolling over and over on the ground. He tried to get up but couldn’t, such was the encumbrance that the lance, shield, spurs, and helmet caused, together with the weight of the ancient armor. And while he struggled to get up and couldn’t, he was saying: “Do not flee, cowardly and wretched people; wait! It wasn’t my fault that I’m sprawled out on the ground, but rather my horse’s!”
One of the mule boys, who must not have been very good-natured, when he heard the poor fallen man say so many arrogant things, couldn’t stand it without giving don Quixote’s ribs an answer. He went up to him and took the lance, broke it into pieces, and with one of those pieces began to give our don Quixote so many blows that, in spite of his armor, he thrashed him like milled wheat. His masters shouted at him not to beat him up so much and to leave him alone, but the lad was irate and didn’t want to leave the game until he’d vented the rest of his anger. He went back for more pieces of the broken lance and broke them all on the wretched downed man, who, even with that storm of blows raining down on him, never shut his mouth, threatening heaven and earth, and the brigands, for that’s what they appeared to him to be.
The lad finally got tired, and the merchants continued their journey, taking with them stories to tell for the rest of the trip about the drubbed fellow. After don Quixote found himself alone, he tried to get up once again, but if he couldn’t do it when he was hale and hearty, how could he do it when he was beaten up and almost broken to pieces? But he still thought he was fortunate, deeming that what had happened to him was an appropriate misadventure for knights errant, and he blamed it all on his horse. Even so, it was impossible for him to get up, because his whole body was battered.