Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

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Chapter XV. Where is related the unfortunate adventure that happened to don Quixote when he came across some soulless Yangüesan­s.
The wise Cide Hamete Benengeli recounts that as soon as don Quixote took leave of his hosts and everyone else at the burial of Grisós­tomo, he and his squire went into the same forest where they had seen that Marcela had gone. And after they had traveled a bit more than two hours looking for her without being able to find her, they came upon a grassy green meadow surrounded by a cool and pleasant stream that invited, and even forced them to spend the siesta hours, which were fast approaching.

Don Quixote and Sancho let the donkey and Rocinante graze freely on the abundant grass while they raided the saddlebags without ceremony, and in good peace and fellowship, master and servant ate what they found. Sancho didn’t bother to hobble Rocinante, since he knew him to be meek, and so lacking in lust, that all the mares in the pasture of Cordova couldn’t lead him astray. But fate, and the devil (who doesn’t sleep all the time), arranged for a number of Galician mares to be grazing nearby. They belonged to some Galician205 muleteers who usually spent their siesta with their teams in places where there’s plenty of grass and water. And that particular place where don Quixote happened to be was ideal for the Galicians. It happened that Rocinante got into his head to have some recreation with the señoras mares, and departing from his usual demeanor and custom, as soon as he smelled them, and without his master’s permission, he set off on a jaunty little trot to communicate his need with them. But they, the way it looked, seemed more interested in grazing than anything else, and received him with their horseshoes and teeth, so that in a short time, Rocinan­te’s saddle was knocked off. But what he must have bemoaned even more was that the muleteers, seeing the outrage being done to their mares, came with stakes, and whacked him so many times that they made him fall to the ground, badly battered.

Don Quixote and Sancho had seen the beating Rocinante was getting and came running, out of breath. Don Quixote said to Sancho: “What I see here, Sancho, my friend, is that these aren’t knights, but rather low-lives and rabble. I say this because you can help me to take proper vengeance on the affront done to Roci­nante right in front of our very eyes.”

“What the devil kind of vengeance are we going to take,” responded Sancho, “if they’re more than twenty and we’re no more than two, or maybe only one and a half.”

“I’m worth a hundred,” replied don Quixote. And without any further words, he seized his sword, and Sancho did the same, moved by the example of his master. At the first exchange, don Quixote slashed at one of them and ripped open his leather tunic together with a large portion of his shoulder. The Galicians, seeing themselves abused by those two men only, since they were so many, went for their stakes, and hemming the two of them in, they began to rain blows with great zeal and fury.

It’s true that with the second blow they knocked Sancho to the ground, and the same thing happened to don Quixote, so their skill and courage were of no avail. Fortune ordained that they should fall at the feet of Rocinante, who hadn’t gotten up yet. From this you can gauge the pounding force of stakes wielded by hands of angered rustics.

When the Galicians saw the injuries they had done, they gathered their team as quickly as they could and went along their way, leaving the two adventurers a sad sight and a sorrier mood. The first to recover was Sancho Panza. Finding himself next to his master, with a feeble and doleful voice he said: “Señor don Quixote! Ah, señor don Quixote!”

“What do you want, brother Sancho?” responded don Quixote with the same weak and pained tone of voice as Sancho.

“I’d like, if it’s possible,” responded Sancho Panza, “for your grace to give me two gulps of that Feo Blas’206 brew, if you have some handy. Maybe it’ll be as good for fractures as it is for wounds.”

“If I had any here, unlucky fellow that I am, what more could we want?” responded don Quixote. “But I swear to you, Sancho Panza, on my word as a knight errant, that before two days have gone by, if Fate doesn’t ordain otherwise, I’ll have made some, or I’ll be very unlucky indeed.”

“How many days does your grace think it’ll be before we’ll be able to budge?” replied Sancho Panza.

“For my part,” said the beaten-up knight don Quixote, “I don’t know how long it’ll be. But I’m to blame for everything, since I shouldn’t have raised my sword against anybody who hasn’t been dubbed a knight. And I think as a punishment for having transgressed the laws of chivalry, the god of battles has allowed me to be punished for it. So, Sancho Panza, let me tell you something, because it’s important for the health of both of us, and that is that when you see such rabble trying to beat us up, don’t wait for me to take up my sword against them, because I’ll in no wise do that, but rather take your own sword and punish them to your heart’s content. And if some knights errant come to assist and defend them, I’ll be able to defend you and attack them with all my might, and you’ve had a thousand proofs how far the might of my arm extends.” Such was the arrogance the poor señor had after he conquered the brave Basque.

But the proclamation of his master didn’t seem so good to Sancho that he should fail to respond, saying: “Señor, I’m a peaceful man, meek and calm, and I can overlook any injury whatsoever, because I have a wife to support and children to raise. So, let me make this suggestion—since I can’t give you a command—that in no way will I take up my sword, either against a peasant or a knight. And from now until I die, I forgive any offenses done to me, or yet to be done to me, whether he who did, does, or will have done them is of the upper or lower classes, rich or poor, hidalgo or commoner, not excepting any rank or condition whatsoever.”

When his master heard this, he responded: “I wish I had the breath to be able with some ease, and that the pain in my ribs would abate a little, to make you see, Panza, the error into which you’ve fallen. Look here, you sinner, if the winds of Fortune, until now so contrary, should blow in our favor, filling our sails of desire so that inexorably and without any opposition we could reach port in one of the ínsulas I’ve promised you, what would become of you if once I won it and made you lord of it? Why, it’d all come to nothing since you aren’t a knight and you don’t want to become one, nor do you have the courage or intention of avenging injuries or defending your dominion. You should know that in newly-conquered kingdoms and provinces, the inhabitants are never as peaceable nor as well-disposed toward their new lord so that they might not be afraid to start an uprising to change things once again, and, as they say, «try their luck». Thus, the new possessor has to have the understanding to govern, and the courage to fight and defend himself in any situation.”

“In what has just happened to us,” replied Sancho, “I wish I’d had that understanding and courage you mention. But I swear to you on the word of a poor man that I’m more ready for plasters than for conversation. See if you can get up, and help me with Rocinante, though he doesn’t deserve it since he was the main cause of this drubbing. I never considered Rocinan­te would do anything like that—I always thought him to be a chaste person and as peaceable as I am. Oh, well—they say «you need a lot of time to come to know people», and «nothing is certain in this life». Who would have said that after those great slashes that your grace gave that unfortunate knight errant, that such a tempest of blows on our backs would follow so soon in its wake?”

“Your back,” replied don Quixote, “should be used to such tempests. But mine, which is accustomed to soft cloth and fine linen, will clearly feel more pain from this misfortune. And if I didn’t suspect—what do I mean suspect? I know for sure!—that these discomforts are closely aligned with the practice of arms, I’d die on the spot from pure vexation.”

To which the squire responded: “Señor, since these misfortunes are the natural harvest of knighthood, tell me if they happen very frequently or if there are specific times when they happen, because it seems to me that with two such harvests we’ll be useless for a third, if God in His infinite mercy doesn’t come to our aid.”

“You know, Sancho, my friend,” responded don Quixote, “that the life of knights errant is subject to a thousand perils and reverses, and it’s just as likely for knights errant to become kings and emperors, as has been shown by experience through many diverse knights whose histories I know thoroughly. And I could tell you now, if this pain would abate, about some who, all alone, through the strength of their arm, have risen to the high positions that I’ve told you about. And these same men found themselves, both before and after, in great misfortunes and misery, because the great Amadís de Gaula fell into the power of his mortal enemy Arcaláus the enchanter, who—and it’s an incontrovertible fact—gave him, tied to the column of a patio, holding him as a prisoner, more than two hundred lashes with the reins of a horse. And there’s an anonymous author who can be believed, who says that when they caught the Knight of Phœbus through a certain trapdoor that crumbled under his weight in a certain castle, he found himself in a deep pit under the ground, tied hand and foot, and there they gave him an enema of water and sand that almost finished him off. And if he hadn’t been saved from that great peril by a wizard who was a great friend of his, the poor knight would have had a bad time of it. So, I can well suffer among such good company, for they have undergone greater affronts than we’ve just now undergone. I want you to know, Sancho, that wounds that are given by instruments that just happen to be in one’s hands don’t constitute an affront. This is already in the laws of the duel, written with these express words: if a shoemaker hits another person with a last that he has in his hand, since, after all, is just a piece of wood, you can’t say that the other person is to be considered affronted. I say this so you won’t think that even though we’ve been beaten-up, we’re not affronted, because the weapons those men had with which they pounded us, were nothing else but stakes, and none of them had a rapier, sword, or dagger.”

“They gave me no time, to see very much,” responded Sancho, “because I had hardly grabbed my sword when they put the sign of the cross on my shoulders with their clubs, so that they took the sight from my eyes and the strength from my feet, throwing me on the ground where I’m lying right now, and I couldn’t care less if the blows with the stakes were an affront or not, but I do care about the pain from the blows themselves, which will remain as imprinted on my memory as on my back.”

“I’ll have you know, brother Panza,” replied don Quixote, “that there’s no memory that time doesn’t erase, nor pain that death doesn’t consume.”

“What greater misfortune can there be,” replied Panza, “than one that waits for time to consume or death to end? If our disaster were of the kind that’s healed with a couple of bandages, it wouldn’t be so bad. But I’m beginning to think that all the plasters in a hospital won’t be enough to fix them up.”

“Enough of that, and take strength from weakness, Sancho,” replied don Quixote. “That’s what I’ll do. Let’s see how Rocinante is, because the way I look at it, the poor thing hasn’t gotten the least of this misfortune.”

“There’s no surprise in that,” responded Sancho, “since he’s such a good knight errant. But what surprises me is that my donkey managed to stay free and without being hurt, whereas we’ve been left without ribs.”207

“Fortune always leaves one door open in misfortunes to remedy them,” said don Quixote. “I say that because that little creature can make up for the lack of Rocinante by carrying me from here to some castle, where my wounds can be treated. And further, I won’t consider such a mount to be a dishonor because I remember having read that the old man Silenus, governor and tutor to the happy god of laughter, when he entered into the city of the hundred gates, he entered quite happily on the back of a beautiful donkey.”208

“It may be true that he went mounted as your grace says,” responded Sancho, “but there’s a big difference between going mounted that way and slung across like a sack of garbage.”

To which don Quixote responded, “Wounds received in battle confer honor rather than take it away. So, friend Panza, no more arguments; but, as I said, get up as well as you can, and put me on your donkey however it pleases you, and let’s leave before nightfall overtakes us in this wilderness.”

“But I’ve heard your grace say,” said Panza, “that it is very common for knights errant to sleep in the wilderness most of the year, and they held it as good fortune.”

“That is,” said don Quixote, “when they can’t help it or when they’re in love. And this is so true, that there have been knights who lived on a boulder for two years, in the sun, in the shade, withstanding all the inclemen­cies of the heavens, without their ladies knowing about it. And one of these was Amadís when he was known as Beltene­bros, who went to stay on Peña Pobre,5 I don’t know if it was for eight years or eight months—I’m just not sure. It’s enough that he was there doing penance for I don’t know what kind displeasure that lady Oriana had done to him. But let’s drop this, Sancho, before some misfortune happens to the donkey like the one suffered by Rocinante.”

“That would be the work of the devil,” said San­cho.

And emitting thirty ows and sixty sighs and a hundred twenty curses and execrations on the person who had brought him to this point, he got in the middle of the road, all bent over like a Turkish bow, unable to straighten up. Yet with all this, he was able to prepare the donkey, who had wandered off a bit what with so much freedom accorded him on that day. He then was able to get Rocinante up, and if the horse had had a language with which to lament, he wouldn’t have been far behind Sancho or his master.

Finally, Sancho got don Quixote onto the donkey and tied Rocinante behind. He took the donkey by the halter and headed toward the main road. And Fortune, which was guiding their affairs better and better, after they had gone only half a league, Sancho saw a road leading to an inn, which, to his own grief, and to the pleasure of don Quixote, was judged to be a castle. Sancho swore it was an inn, and his master said it wasn’t an inn, but rather a castle. The dispute was still going strong when they arrived, and Sancho entered with his retinue, without further confirmation.

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