Chapter IX. Where the stupendous battle that the gallant Basque and the brave don Quixote had is concluded and brought to an end. In the first part of this history, we left the brave Basque and the celebrated don Quixote with their unsheathed swords raised and ready to deliver two raging slashes that, if they had landed squarely, would at the very least have cleft them both from top to bottom and opened them up like a pomegranate. And at this perilous point the delicious history was cut off, and the author was unable to tell us where we could find what was missing. This caused me considerable distress, because the pleasure I’d gotten from reading this little bit turned into vexation when I considered how practically hopeless it would be to find what, in my opinion, seemed to be the larger part that was left to tell of this delectable history. It seemed to me that it was impossible—and so contrary to the usual custom—that such a good knight wouldn’t have a wizard who would undertake to record his unheard-of deeds, this being something that was never lacking to any knight errant who «so people say, go to seek adventures», because every one of them had one or two wizards who not only wrote of their deeds, but also described their most secret thoughts and childish acts. Such a good knight just couldn’t have been so unfortunate as to lack what Platir and others had in excess. I couldn’t bring myself to believe such a lively story would remain truncated and mutilated, and I blamed the perversity of time, which devours and consumes everything, and which had either hidden or destroyed it.
On the other hand, it seemed to me that since they’d found in his library such modern books as The Disillusionment of Jealousy andNymphs of Henares, don Quixote’s story must also be modern; and if it wasn’t written down, at least it would still be remembered by people in his village and from neighboring ones. This was quite a perplexing thought and it left me wanting more than ever to find out, really and truly, about the life and miracles of our famous Spaniard don Quixote de La Mancha, shining light and mirror of Manchegan chivalry, and the first person in our age and in these very calamitous times, to take on the profession of errant arms, and the burden of redressing wrongs, succoring widows, and protecting maidens—those who rode on palfreys with whips, from mountain to mountain and from valley to valley, with their virginity intact, unless it happened that some rustic with a hatchet and hood, or some enormous giant, ravished them. Some maidens of yesteryear, after eighty years of never sleeping under a roof, went to their graves as virginal as the mothers who bore them.
So, as I was saying, for these and many other reasons, our gallant don Quixote is worthy of continual and memorable praises, as I am, too, for my work and diligence in looking for the end of this pleasant story. I know very well that if heaven, chance, and good fortune hadn’t helped me, the world would be without the pastime and pleasure that the attentive reader will have for almost two hours. The way I found it, then, happened this way:
One day when I was in the Alcaná of Toledo,162 a boy selling notebooks and papers to a silk merchant walked by me, and since I enjoy reading so much—even scraps of paper I find in the street—I was taken by my natural curiosity and took one of the notebooks the boy was selling, and I saw that it was written in Arabic characters. I recognized them but I couldn’t read them, so I went looking for some Spanish-speaking Moor who could, and it wasn’t hard to find such an interpreter, for even if I’d been looking for someone to translate from a better and more ancient language,163 I’d find one there. In short, Fortune provided me with one. After I told him what I wanted, and put the book in his hands, he opened it up in the middle, and when he’d read a little of it he began to laugh.
I asked him what he was laughing about, and he told me it was something written in the margin as a note. I asked him to tell me what it was and he, still laughing, said: “As I said, here’s what’s written in the margin: ‘This Dulcinea del Toboso, which the history mentions so many times, they say she had the best hand for salting pork of all the women in La Mancha.’ ”
When I heard Dulcinea del Toboso mentioned, I was dumbfounded and amazed, because I realized immediately that those notebooks contained the history of don Quixote. With this thought, I told him to hurry and read the beginning, which he did, and translating on the fly from Arabic to Spanish, he said that it read: History of don Quixote of La Mancha, written by Cide Hamete Benengeli, Arabic historian.164
I needed a lot of discretion to conceal the joy I felt when the title of the book came to my ears. I managed to keep the notebooks and papers out of the hands of the silk-merchant and bought them all from the boy for half a real. If he’d only known how much I wanted them, he could have easily asked for and gotten six reales165 from the deal.
I went away with the Moor to the cloister of the cathedral and begged him to translate all those notebooks that dealt with don Quixote into Spanish, without taking anything away or adding anything, and I offered him whatever pay he wanted. He was satisfied with fifty pounds of raisins and three bushels of wheat, and he promised to translate well and faithfully—and in a short time. But I, to make things easier, and so as to not let my treasure out of my sight, took him to my house, where, in a little more than six-and-a-half weeks, he translated everything, exactly the way it’s written here.
On the first notebook there was painted, in a most natural way, the battle between don Quixote and the Basque. They were in the same position as the history relates: swords raised on high, one of them protecting himself with his shield and the other with the cushion, and the Basque’s mule so lifelike that you could see it was a rental animal from a crossbow shot away. At the feet of the Basque there was a caption that read don Sancho de Azpetia,166 which must have been his name, and at the feet of Rocinante there was another one that read don Quixote. Rocinante was marvelously depicted, so long and lean, with such a pronounced backbone, so far gone in consumption, that it showed clearly with what acuity and good reason he’d been called Rocinante. Next to him was Sancho Panza, who was holding the halter of his donkey, and at his feet there was another caption that read Sancho Zancas, and that must have been because he had—as the miniature showed—a large belly,167 a short waist, and long shanks,168 and for that reason the history sometimes calls him Panza and sometimes Zancas.
Other little details could be mentioned, but all of them are of little importance and they’re not critical to the true telling of the story, for no story is bad as long as it’s true. If there’s any objection to its truth, the only one could be that its author is Arabic, and it’s a very common trait for people of that origin to be liars; although, because they’re such enemies of ours, it can be understood that he would have fallen short of the truth rather than exaggerated it. So it seems to me that on occasions when he could, and should have outdone himself in praise of such a fine knight, he passes them over in silence on purpose; this is a bad and ill-conceived practice, since historians should be—indeed must be—accurate, truthful, and free from passion, and neither interest nor fear, hate nor friendship, should make them stray from the path of truth, whose mother is history—emulator of time, storehouse of deeds, witness to the past, example and counsel to the present, and caveat for the future. In this story, I know that you’ll find everything that you could possibly desire in any such pleasant tale. If something is lacking in it, I hold that its dog of an author is to blame, rather than a deficiency in the subject.
In short, the second part—according to the translation—began this way:
“With their trenchant swords raised on high, the two brave and enraged combatants seemed to defy heaven, earth, and the bottomless pit, such was their courageous mien. The wrathful Basque was the first one to strike a blow, which was delivered with such force and fury that if it had not gone off course a bit, it alone would have been enough to end the bitter struggle as well as all the adventures of our knight. But good fortune, which was keeping him for greater things, deflected the sword of his opponent so that, although it hit him on the left shoulder, it did no more damage than to knock off the armor on that side, taking with it a good portion of his helmet and half his ear, and it all tumbled frightfully to the ground, and left him in a terrible plight.”
Good God! Who can possibly describe the rage that entered the heart of our Manchegan, seeing himself end up that way! The only thing that can be said is that he raised himself high in his stirrups, clutched his sword in both hands, and with great fury brought it down onto the Basque, and struck him with the flat side squarely on his cushion—which was really not a good defense—and then his head, as if a mountain had fallen on him, and he began to bleed through his nostrils, mouth, and ears, and he looked like he was going to fall from his mule, which he doubtless would have, if he hadn’t been clutching its neck. But even so, his feet slipped from his stirrups, then he released his hands; and the mule—frightened by the terrible blow—began to dash across the field, and with a few bucks threw its master to the ground.
Don Quixote was watching this with great calm, and when he saw the Basque fall, he jumped nimbly from his horse and approached him, and then, putting the point of his sword right between the man’s eyes, told him to surrender. If not, he would cut off his head. The Basque was so confused that he couldn’t answer a word, and he would have fared badly (such was the blind rage of don Quixote), if the women in the coach—who up to that point had been watching the struggle with great dismay—hadn’t gone over and asked him very fervently to do them the favor of sparing the life of their squire.
Don Quixote responded with haughty composure: “By all means, beauteous señoras, I’m very happy to do what you ask. But it has to be on one condition—which is for this knight to promise me he’ll go to the village of El Toboso and present himself on my behalf before the peerless Dulcinea, so that she can do with him whatever she wants.”
The terrified and grief-stricken women, without any idea of what don Quixote was asking, and without finding out who Dulcinea was, promised him that the squire would do everything he’d commanded.
“On the faith of that promise, I’ll do him no further harm, although in my opinion, he well deserves it.”