Home  »  Don Quixote, Part 1  »  II. Of That Which Happened unto the Ingenuous Knight within the Inn, Which He Supposed to Be a Castle

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1547–1616). Don Quixote, Part 1.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.

The Third Book

II. Of That Which Happened unto the Ingenuous Knight within the Inn, Which He Supposed to Be a Castle

THE INNKEEPER, seeing Don Quixote laid overthwart upon the ass, demanded of Sancho what disease he had. Sancho answered that it was nothing but a fall down from a rock, and that his ribs were thereby somewhat bruised. This innkeeper had a wife, not of the condition that those of that trade are wont to be; for she was of a charitable nature, and would give at the calamities of her neighbours, and did therefore presently occur to cure Don Quixote, causing her daughter, a very comely young maiden, to assist her to cure her guest. There likewise served in the inn an Asturian wench, who was broad-faced, flat-pated, saddle-nosed, blind of one eye, and the other almost out; true it is, that the comeliness of her body supplied all the other defects. She was not seven palms long from her feet unto her head; and her shoulders, which did somewhat burden her, made her look oftener to the ground than she would willingly. This beautiful piece did assist the young maiden, and both of them made a very bad bed for Don Quixote in an old wide chamber, which gave manifest tokens of itself that it had sometimes served many years only to keep chopped straw for horses; in which was also lodged a carrier, whose bed was made a little way off from Don Quixote’s, which, though it was made of canvas and coverings of his mules, was much better than the knight’s that only contained four boards roughly planed, placed on two unequal tressels; a flock-bed, which in the thinness seemed rather a quilt, full of pellets, and had not they shown that they were wool, through certain breaches made by antiquity on the tick, a man would by the hardness rather take them to be stones; a pair of sheets made of the skins of targets; a coverlet, whose threads if a man would number, he should not lose one only of the account.

In this ungracious bed did Don Quixote lie, and presently the hostess and her daughter anointed him all over, and Maritornes (for so the Asturian wench was called) did hold the candle. The hostess at the plaistering of him, perceiving him to be so bruised in sundry places, she said unto him that those signs rather seemed to proceed of blows than of a fall. ‘They were not blows,’ replied Sancho; ‘but the rock had many sharp ends and knobs on it, whereof every one left behind it a token; and I desire you, good mistress,’ quoth he, ‘to leave some flax behind, and there shall not want one that needeth the use of them; for, I assure you, my back doth likewise ache.’ ‘If that be so,’ quoth the hostess, ‘it is likely that thou didst also fall.’ ‘I did not fall,’ quoth Sancho Panza, ‘but with the sudden affright that I took at my master’s fall, my body doth so grieve me, as methinks I have been handsomely belaboured.’ ‘It may well happen as thou sayst,’ quoth the hostess’ daughter; ‘for it hath befallen me sundry times to dream that I fell down from some high tower, and could never come to the ground; and when I awoke, I did find myself so troubled and broken, as if I had verily fallen.’ ‘There is the point, masters,’ quoth Sancho Panza, ‘that I, without dreaming at all, but being more awake than I am at this hour, found myself to have very few less tokens and marks than my lord Don Quixote hath.’ ‘How is this gentleman called?’ quoth Maritornes the Asturian. ‘Don Quixote of the Mancha,’ replied Sancho Panza; ‘and he is a knight-errant, and one of the best and strongest that have been seen in the world these many ages.’ ‘What is that, a knight-errant? quoth the wench. ‘Art thou so young in the world that thou knowest it not?’ answered Sancho Panza. ‘Know then, sister mine, that a knight-errant is a thing which, in two words, you see well cudgelled, and after becomes an emperor. To-day he is the most unfortunate creature of the world, and the most needy; and tomorrow he will have two or three crowns of kingdoms to bestow upon his squire.’ ‘If it be so,’ quoth the hostess, ‘why, then, hast not thou gotten at least an earldom, seeing thou art this good knight his squire?’ ‘It is yet too soon,’ replied Sancho; ‘for it is but a month since we began first to seek adventures, and we have not yet encountered any worthy of the name. And sometimes it befalls, that searching for one thing we encounter another. True it is that, if my lord Don Quixote recover of this wound or fall, and that I be not changed by it, I would not make an exchange of my hopes for the best title of Spain.’ Don Quixote did very attentively listen unto all these discourses, and, sitting up in his bed as well as he could, taking his hostess by the hand, he said unto her: ‘Believe me, beautiful lady, that you may count yourself fortunate for having harboured my person in this your castle, which is such, that if I do not praise it, it is because men say that proper praise stinks; but my squire will inform you what I am: only this I will say myself, that I will keep eternally written in my memory the service that you have done unto me, to be grateful unto you for it whilst I live. And I would it might please the highest heavens that love held me not so enthralled and subject to his laws as he doth, and to the eyes of that ungrateful fair whose name I secretly mutter, then should those of this beautiful damsel presently signiorise my liberty.’ The hostess, her daughter, and the good Maritornes remained confounded, hearing the speech of our knight-errant, which they understood as well as if he had spoken Greek unto them; but yet they conceived that they were words of compliments and love, and as people unused to hear the like language, they beheld and admired him, and he seemed unto them a man of the other world; and so, returning him thanks, with tavernly phrase, for his large offers, they departed. And the Asturian Maritornes cured Sancho, who needed her help no less than his master.

The carrier and she had agreed to pass the night together, and she had given unto him her word that, when the guests were quiet and her master sleeping, she would come unto him and satisfy his desire, as much as he pleased. And it is said of this good wench, that she never passed the like promise but that she performed it, although it were given in the midst of a wood, and without any witness; for she presumed to be of gentle blood, and yet she held it no disgrace to serve in an inn; for she was wont to affirm that disgraces and misfortunes brought her to that state. The hard, narrow, niggard, and counterfeit bed whereon Don Quixote lay was the first of the four, and next unto it was his squire’s, that only contained a mat and a coverlet, and rather seemed to be of shorn canvas than wool. After these two beds followed that of the carrier, made, as we have said, of the pannels and furniture of two of his best mules, although they were twelve all in number, fair, fat, and goodly beasts; for he was one of the richest carriers of Arevalo, as the author of this history affirmeth, who maketh particular mention of him, because he knew him very well, and besides, some men say that he was somewhat akin unto him; omitting that Cid Mahamet Benengeli was a very exact historiographer, and most curious in all things, as may be gathered very well, seeing that those which are related being so minute and trivial, he would not overslip them in silence.

By which those grave historiographers may take example, which recount unto us matters so short and succinctly as they do scarce arrive to our knowledge, leaving the most substantial part of the works drowned in the ink horn, either through negligence, malice, or ignorance. Many good fortunes betide the author of Tablante de Ricamonte, and him that wrote the book wherein are rehearsed the acts of the Count Tomillas: Lord! with what preciseness do they describe every circumstance. To conclude, I say that, after the carrier had visited his mules, and given unto them their second refreshing, he stretched himself in his coverlets, and expected the coming of the most exquisite Maritornes. Sancho was also, by this, plaistered and laid down in his bed, and though he desired to sleep, yet would not the grief of his ribs permit him. And Don Quixote, with the pain of his sides, lay with both his eyes open, like a hare.

All the inn was drowned in silence, and there was no other light in it than that of a lamp, which hung lighting in the midst of the entry. This marvellous quietness, and the thoughts which always represented to our knight the memory of the successes which at every pace are recounted in books of knighthood (the principal authors of this mishap), called to his imagination one of the strangest follies that easily may be conjectured; which was, he imagined that he arrived to a famous castle (for, as we have said, all the inns wherein he lodged seemed unto him to be such), and that the innkeeper’s daughter was the lord’s daughter of the castle, who, overcome by his comeliness and valour, was enamoured of him, and had promised that she would come to solace with him for a good space, after her father and mother had gone to bed. And holding all this chimera and fiction, which he himself had built in his brain, for most firm and certain, he began to be vexed in mind, and to think on the dangerous trance, wherein his honesty was like to fall, and did firmly purpose in heart not to commit any disloyalty against his lady, Dulcinea of Toboso, although very Queen Genever, with her lady, Queintanonia, should come to solicit him. Whilst thus he lay thinking of these follies, the hour approached (that was unlucky for him) wherein the Asturian wench should come, who entered into the chamber in search of her carrier, in her smock, barefooted, and her hair trussed up in a coif of fustian, with soft and wary steps. But she was scarce come to the door when Don Quixote felt her, and, arising and sitting up in his bed, in despite of his plaisters and with great grief of his ribs, he stretched forth his arms to receive his beautiful damsel, the Asturian, who, crouching and silently, went groping with her hands to find out her sweet heart, and encountered Don Quixote’s arms, who presently seized very strongly upon one of her wrists, and, drawing her towards him (she daring not to speak a word,) he caused her to sit upon his bed’s side, and presently groped her smock, and although it was of the strongest canvas, he thought it was most subtle and fine holland. She wore on her wrists certain bracelets of glass, which he esteemed to be precious oriental pearls. Her hair which was almost as rough as a horse-tail, he held to be wires of the glisteringest gold of Arabia, whose brightness did obscure that of the sun; and her breath, which certainly smelled like to stale salt-fish reserved from over night, seemed unto him a most redolent, aromatical, and sweet smell. And finally, he painted her in his fantasy of the same very form and manner as he had read in his books of knighthood, of a certain princess which came to visit a knight who was grievously wounded, being overcome by his love, embellished with all the ornaments that here we have recounted; and the blindness of this poor gallant was such, as neither the touching, savour, or other things that accompanied the good damsel, could undeceive him, being such as were able to make any other, save a carrier, vomit up his bowels; but rather he made full account that he held the goddess of love between his arms, and, holding her still very fast, he began to court her, with a low and amorous voice, in this manner: ‘I could wish to find myself in terms, most high and beautiful lady, to be able to recompense so great a favour as that which, with the presence of your matchless feature, you have shown unto me; but fortune (who is never weary of persecuting the good) hath pleased to lay me in this bed, wherein I lie so broken and bruised, that although I were desirous to satisfy your will, yet it is impossible; especially seeing to that impossibility may be added a greater, to wit, the promised faith which I have given to the unmatchable Dulcinea of Toboso, the only lady of my most hidden thoughts; for did not this let me, do not hold me to be so senseless and mad a knight as to overslip so fortunate an occasion as this which your bounty hath offered to me.’

Maritornes remained sweating, through anxiety, to see herself held so fast by Don Quixote, and, without either understanding or giving attention to his words, she laboured all that she could to free herself from him without speaking a word. The carrier, whose bad intention kept him still waking, did hear his lady from the time that she first entered into the room, and did attentively give ear to all Don Quixote’s discourses; and, jealous that the Asturian should break promise with him for any other, he drew nearer unto Don Quixote’s bed, and stood quiet to see whereunto those words which he could not understand tended; but viewing that the wench strove to depart, and Don Quixote laboured to withhold her, the jest seeming evil unto him, he up with his arm, and discharged so terrible a blow on the enamoured knight’s jaws as he bathed all his mouth in blood; and, not content herewithal, he mounted upon the knight, and did tread on his ribs, and passed then all over with more than a trot.

The bed, which was somewhat weak, and not very firm of foundation, being unable to suffer the addition of the carrier, fell down to the ground with so great a noise as it waked the innkeeper; who, presently suspecting that it was one of Maritornes’ conflicts, because she answered him not, having called her loudly, he forthwith arose, and, lighting of a lamp, he went towards the place where he heard the noise. The wench, perceiving that her master came, and that he was extreme choleric, did, all ashamed and troubled, run into Sancho Panza’s bed, who slept all this while very soundly, and there crouched, and made herself as little as an egg.

Her master entered, crying, “Whore, where art thou? I dare warrant that these are some of thy doings?” By this Sancho awaked, and, feeling that bulk lying almost wholly upon him, he thought it was the nightmare, and began to lay his fists here and there about him very swiftly, and among others wrought Maritornes I know not how many blows; who, grieved for the pain she endured there, casting all honesty aside, gave Sancho the exchange of his blows so trimly as she made him to awake in despite of his sluggishness. And, finding himself to be so abused of an uncouth person, whom he could not behold, he arose and caught hold of Maritornes as well as he could, and they both began the best fight and pleasantest skirmish in the world.

The carrier, perceiving by the light which the innkeeper brought in with him, the lamentable state of his mistress, abandoning Don Quixote, he instantly repaired to give her the succour that was requisite, which likewise the innkeeper did, but with another meaning; for he approached with intention to punish the wench, believing that she was infallibly the cause of all that harmony. And so, as men say, the cat to the rat, the rat to the cord, the cord to the post; so the carrier struck Sancho, Sancho the wench, she returned him again his liberality with interest, and the inn-keeper laid load upon his maid also; and all of them did mince it with such expedition, as there was no leisure at all allowed to any one of them for breathing. And the best of all was, that the innkeeper’s lamp went out, and then, finding themselves in darkness, they belaboured one another so without compassion, and at once, as wheresoever the blow fell, it bruised the place pitifully.

There lodged by chance that night in the inn one of the squadron of these which are called of the old Holy Brotherhood of Toledo; he likewise hearing the wonderful noise of the fight, laid hand on his rod of office and the tin box of his titles, and entered into the chamber without light, saying, ‘Stand still to the officer of justice and to the holy brotherhood,’ And, saying so, the first whom he met was the poor battered Don Quixote, who lay overthrown in his bed, stretched, with his face upward, without any feeling; and taking hold of his beard, he cried out incessantly, ‘Help the justice!’ But, seeing that he whom he held fast bowed neither hand nor foot, he presently thought that he was dead, and that those battaillants that fought so eagerly in the room had slain him; wherefore he lifted his voice and cried out loudly, saying, ‘Shut the inn-door, and see that none escape; for here they have killed a man!’ This word astonished all the combatants so much, as every one left the battle in the very terms wherein this voice had overtaken them. The innkeeper retired himself to his chamber, the carrier to his coverlets, the wench to her couch; and only the unfortunate Don Quixote and Sancho were not able to move themselves from the place wherein they lay. The officer of he Holy Brotherhood in this space letting slip poor Don Quixote’s beard, went out for light to search and apprehend the delinquents; but he could not find any, for the innkeeper had purposely quenched the lamp as he retired to his bed; wherefore the officer was constrained to repair to the chimney, where, with great difficulty, after he had spent a long while doing of it he at last lighted a candle.