Home  »  Don Quixote, Part 1  »  VIII. Of the Liberty Don Quixote Gave to Many Wretches, Who Were A-carrying Perforce to a Place They Desired Not

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

The Third Book

VIII. Of the Liberty Don Quixote Gave to Many Wretches, Who Were A-carrying Perforce to a Place They Desired Not

CID HAMET BENENGELI, an Arabic and Manchegan author, recounts, in this most grave, lofty, divine, sweet conceited history, that, after these discourses passed between Don Quixote and his squire Sancho Panza, which we have laid down in the last chapter, Don Quixote, lifting up his eyes, saw that there came in the very same way wherein they rode, about some twelve men in a company on foot, inserted like bead-stones in a great chain of iron, that was tied about their necks, and every one of them had manacles besides on their hands. There came to conduct them two on horseback and two others afoot: the horsemen had firelock pieces; those that came afoot, darts and swords. And as soon as Sancho saw them, he said: ‘This is a chain of galley-slaves, people forced by the king to go to the galleys.’ ‘How! people forced?’ demanded Don Quixote; ‘is it possible that the king will force anybody?’ ‘I say not so,’ answered Sancho, ‘but that it is people which are condemned, for their offences, to serve the king in the galleys perforce.’ ‘In resolution,’ replied Don Quixote, ‘howsoever it be, this folk, although they be conducted, go perforce, and not willingly.’ ‘That’s so.’ quoth Sancho. ‘Then, if that be so, here falls in justly the execution of my function, to wit, the dissolving of violences and outrages, and the succouring of the afflicted and needful.’ ‘I pray you, sir,’ quoth Sancho, ‘to consider that the justice, who represents the king himself, doth wrong or violence to nobody, but only doth chastise them for their committed crimes.’

By this the chain of slaves arrived, and Don Quixote, with very courteous terms, requested those that went in their guard, that they would please to inform him of the cause wherefore they carried that people away in that manner. One of the guardians a-horseback answered that they were slaves condemned by his majesty to the galleys, and there was no more to be said, neither ought he to desire any further knowledge. ‘For all that,’ replied Don Quixote, ‘I would fain learn of every one of them in particular the cause of his disgrace.’ And to this did add other such and so courteous words, to move them to tell him what he desired, as the other guardian a-horseback said, ‘Although we carry here the register and testimony of the condemnations of every one of these wretches, yet this is no time to hold them here long, or take out the processes to read: draw you nearer, and demand it of themselves: for they may tell it an they please, and I know they will; for they are men that take delight both in acting and relating knaveries.’

With this license, which Don Quixote himself would have taken although they had not given it him, he came to the chain, and demanded of the first for what offence he went in so ill a guise. He answered that his offence was no other than for being in love; for which cause only he went in that manner. ‘For that, and no more?’ replied Don Quixote. ‘Well, if enamoured folk be cast into the galleys, I might have been rowing there a good many days ago.’ ‘My love was not such as you conjecture,’ quoth the slave; ‘for mine was that I loved so much a basket well heaped with fine linen, as I did embrace it so straitly, that if the justice had not taken it away from me by force, I would not have forsaken it to this hour by my good-will. All was done in flagrante; there was no leisure to give me torment; the cause was concluded, my shoulders accommodated with a hundred, and, for a supplement, three prizes of garrupes, and the work was ended.’ ‘What are garrupes?’ quoth Don Quixote. ‘Garrupes are galleys,’ replied the slave, who was a young man of some four and twenty years old, and said he was born in Piedrahita.

Don Quixote demanded of the second his cause of offence, who would answer nothing, he went so sad and melancholy. But the first answered for him, and said, ‘Sir, this man goes for a canary-bird, I mean for a musician and singer.’ ‘Is it possible,’ quoth Don Quixote, ‘that musicians and singers are likewise sent to the galleys?’ ‘Yes, sir,’ quoth the slave; ‘for there’s nothing worse than to sing in anguish.’ ‘Rather,’ quoth Don Quixote, ‘I have heard say that he which sings doth affright and chase away his harms.’ ‘Here it is quite contrary,’ quoth the slave; ‘for he that sings once weeps all his life after.’ ‘I do not understand it,’ said Don Quixote. But one of the guardians said to him, ‘Sir knight, to sing in anguish is said, among this people, non sancta, to confess upon the rack. They gave this poor wretch the torture, and he confessed his delight that he was a quartrezo, that is, a stealer of beasts; and because he hath confessed, he is likewise condemned to the galleys for six years, with an amen of two hundred blows, which he bears already with him on his shoulders. And he goes always thus sad and pensative, because the other thieves that remain behind, and also those which go here, do abuse, despise, and scorn him for confessing, and not having a courage to say Non; for, they say, a No hath as many letters as a Yea, and that a delinquent is very fortunate when his life or his death only depends of his own tongue, and not of witnesses or proofs: and, in mine opinion, they have very great reason.’ ‘I likewise think the same,’ quoth Don Quixote.

And, passing to the third, he demanded that which he had done of the rest, who answered him out of hand, and that pleasantly: ‘I go to the Lady Garrupes for five years, because I wanted ten ducats.’ ‘I will give twenty with all my heart to free thee from that misfortune,’ quoth Don Quixote. ‘That,’ quoth the slave, ‘would be like one that hath money in the midst of the gulf, and yet dies for because hunger he can get no meat to buy for it. I say this, because if I had those twenty ducats which your worship’s liberality offers me, in due season I would have so anointed with them the notary’s pen, and whetted my lawyer’s wit so well, that I might to-day see myself in the midst of the market of Cocodover of Toledo, and not in this way trailed thus like a greyhound. But God is great; patience, and this is enough.’

Don Quixote went after to the fourth, who was a man of venerable presence, with a long white beard which reached to his bosom; who, hearing himself demanded the cause why he came there, began to weep, and answered not a word. But the fifth slave lent him a tongue, and said, ‘This honest man goes to the galleys for four years, after he had walked the ordinary apparelled in pomp and a-horseback.’ ‘That is,’ quoth Sancho Panza, ‘as I take, after he was carried about to the shame and public view of the people.’ ‘You are in the right,’ quoth the slave; ‘and the crime for which he is condemned to this pain was, for being a broker of the ear, eye, and of all the body too; for in effect I mean that this gentleman goeth for a bawd, and likewise for having a little smack and entrance in witchcraft.’ ‘If that smack and insight in witchcraft were not added,’ quoth Don Quixote, ‘he merited not to go and row in the galleys for being a pure bawd, but rather deserved to govern and be their general; for the office of a bawd is not like every other ordinary office, but rather of great discretion, and most necessary in any commonwealth well governed, and should not be practised but by people well born; and ought, besides, to have a veedor and examinator of them, as are of all other trades, and a certain appointed number of men known, as are of the other brokers of the exchange. And in this manner many harms that are done might be excused, because this trade and office is practised by indiscreet people of little understanding; such as are women of little more or less; young pages and jesters of few years’ standing, and of less experience, which in the most urgent occasions, and when they should contrive a thing artificially, the crumbs freeze in their mouths and fists, and they know not which is their right hand. Fain would I pass forward and give reasons why it is convenient to make choice of those which ought in the commonwealth to practise this so necessary an office; but the place and season is not fit for it; one day I will say it to those which may provide and remedy it; only I say now, that the assumpt or addition of a witch hath deprived me of the compassion I should otherwise have to see those grey hairs and venerable face in such distress for being a bawd: although I know very well that no sorcery in the world can move or force the will, as some ignorant persons think (for our will is a free power, and there’s no herb or charm can constrain it); that which certain simple women or cozening companions make, are some mixtures and poisons, wherewithal they cause menhrun mad, and in the meanwhile persuade us that they have force to make one love well, being (as I have said) a thing most impossible to constrain the will.’ ‘That is true,’ quoth the old man; ‘and I protest, sir, that I am wholly innocent of the imputation of witchcraft. As for being a bawd, I could not deny it; but yet I never thought that I did ill therein; for all mine intention was, that all the world should disport them, and live together in concord and quietness, without griefs or quarrels. But this by good desire availed me but little to hinder my going there, from whence I have no hope ever to return, my years do so burden me, and also the stone, which lets me not rest an instant.’ And, saying this, he turned again to his lamentations as at the first; and Sancho took such compassion on him, as, setting his hand into his bosom, he drew out a couple of shillings and gave it him as an alms.

From him Don Quixote passed to another, and demanded his fault; who answered with no less, but with much more pleasantness than the former: ‘I go here because I have jested somewhat too much with two cousins-german of mine own, and with two other sisters, which were none of mine own; finally, I jested so much with them all, that thence resulted the increase of my kindred so intricately, as there is no casuist that can well resolve it. All was proved by me; I wanted favour, I had no money, and was in danger to lose my head; finally, I was condemned for six years to the galleys. I consented it, as a punishment of my fault; I am young, and let my life but hold out a while longer, and all will go well. And if you, sir knight, carry anything to succour us poor folk, God will reward you it in heaven, and we will have care here on earth to desire God, in our daily prayers for your life and health, that it be as long and as good as your countenance deserves.’ He that said went in the habit of a student, and one of the guard told him that he was a great talker and a very good Latinist.

After all these came a man of some thirty years old, of very comely personage, save only that when he looked he seemed to thrust the one eye into the other. He was differently tied from the rest, for he carried about his leg so long a chain, that it tired all the rest of his body; and he had besides two iron rings about his neck, the one of the chain, and the other of that kind which are called a ‘keepfriend,’ or the ‘foot of a friend,’ from whence descended two irons unto his middle, out of which did stick two manacles, wherein his hands were locked up with a great hanging lock, so as he could neither set his hands to his mouth, nor bend down his head towards his hands. Don Quixote demanded why he was so loaded with iron more than the rest. The guard answered, because he alone had committed more faults than all together, and was a more desperate knave; and that, although they carried him tied in that sort, yet went they not sure of him, but feared he would make an escape. ‘What faults can he have so grievous,’ quoth Don Quixote, ‘since he hath only deserved to be sent to the galleys?’ ‘He goeth,’ replied the guard, ‘to them for ten years, which is equivalent to a civil death: never strive to know more, but that this man is the notorious Gines of Passamonte, who is otherwise called Ginesilio of Parapilla.’ ‘Master commissary,’ quoth the slave, hearing him say so, ‘go fair and softly, and run not thus dilating of names and surnames. I am called Gines, and not Ginesilio; and Passamonte is my surname, and not Parapilla, as you say; and let every one turn about him, and he shall not do little.’ ‘Speak with less swelling,’ quoth the commissary, ‘sir thief of-more-than-the-mark, if you will not have me to make you hold your peace maugre your teeth.’ ‘It seems well,’ quoth the slave, ‘that a man is carried as pleaseth God; but one day somebody shall know whether I be called Ginesilio of Parapilla.’ ‘Why, do not they call thee so, cozener?’ quoth the guard. “They do,” said Gines; ‘but A will make that they shall not call me so, or I will fleece them there where I mutter under my teeth. Sir knight, if you have anything to bestow on us, give it us now, and begone, in the name of God; for you do tire us with your too-curious search of knowing other men’s lives: and if you would know mine, you shall understand that I am Gines of Passamonte, whose life is written’ (showing his hand) ‘by these two fingers.’ ‘He says true,’ quoth the commissary; ‘for he himself hath penned his own history so well as there is nothing more to be desired, and leaves the book pawned in the prison for two hundred reals.’ ‘And likewise means to redeem it,’ quoth Gines, ‘though it were in for as many ducats.’

‘Is it so good a work?’ said Don Quixote. ‘It is so good,’ replied Gines, ‘that it quite puts down Lazarillo de Tormes, and as many others as are written or shall be written of that kind; for that which I dare affirm to you is, that it treats of true accidents, and those so delightful that no like invention can be compared to them.’ ‘And how is the book entitled?’ quoth Don Quixote. ‘It is called,’ said he, ‘The Life of Gines of Passamonte.’ ‘And is it yet ended?’ said the knight. ‘How can it be finished,’ replied he, ‘my life being not yet ended, since all that is written is from the hour of my birth until that instant that I was sent this last time to the galleys?’ ‘Why, then, belike you were there once before?’ quoth Don Quixote. ‘To serve God and the king I have been in there another time four years, and I know already how the biscuit and provant agree with my stomach,’ quoth Gines, ‘nor doth it grieve me very much to return unto them; for there I shall have leisure to finish my book, and I have many things yet to say; and in the galleys of Spain there is more resting-time than is requisite for that business, although I shall not need much time to pen what is yet unwritten; for I can, if need were, say it all by rote.’ ‘Thou seemest to be ingenious,’ quoth Don Quixote. ‘And unfortunate withal,’ quoth Gines; ‘for mishaps do still persecute the best wits.’ ‘They persecute knaves,’ quoth the commissary. ‘I have already spoken to master commissary,’ quoth Passamonte, ‘to go fair and softly; for the lords did not give you that rod to the end you should abuse us wretches that go here, but rather to guide and carry us where his majesty hath commanded; if not, by the life of— ’Tis enough that perhaps one day may come to light the sports that were made in the inn; and let all the world peace and live well, and speak better; for this is now too great a digression.’ The commissary held up his rod to strike Passamonte in answer of his threats; but Don Quixote put himself between them, and entreated him not to use him hardly, seeing it was not much that one who carried his hands so tied should have his tongue somewhat free; and then, turning himself towards the slaves, he said:

‘I have gathered out of all that which you have said, dear brethren, that although they punish you for your faults, yet that the pains you go to suffer do not very well please you, and that you march toward them with a very ill will, and wholly constrained, and that perhaps the little courage this fellow had on the rack, the want of money that the other had, the small favour that a third enjoyed, and finally, the wretched sentence of the judge, and the not executing that justice that was on your sides, have been cause of your misery. All which doth present itself to my memory in such sort, as it persuadeth, yea, and enforceth me, to effect that for you for which Heaven sent me into the world, and made me profess that order of knighthood which I follow, and that vow which I made therein to favour and assist the needful, and those that are oppressed by others more potent. But, forasmuch as I know that it is one of the parts of prudence not to do that by foul means which may be accomplished by fair, I will entreat those gentlemen, your guardians and commissary, they will please to loose and let you depart peaceably; for there will not want others to serve the king in better occasions; for it seems to me a rigorous manner of proceeding to make slaves of them whom God and nature created free. How much more, good sirs of the guard,’ added Don Quixote, ‘seeing these poor men have never committed any offence against you? Let them answer for their sins in the other world: there is a God in heaven who is not negligent in punishing the evil nor rewarding the good; and it is no wise decent that honourable men should be the executioners of other men, seeing they cannot gain or lose much thereby. I demand this of you in this peaceable, quiet manner, to the end that, if you accomplish my request, I may have occasion to yield you thanks; and if you will not do it willingly, then shall this lance and this sword, guided by the invincible valour of mine arm, force you to it.’

‘This is a pleasant doting,’ answered the commissary, ‘and an excellent jest wherewithal you have finished your large reasoning. Would you, good sir knight, have us leave unto you those the king forceth, as if we had authority to let them go, or you to commands us to do it? Go on your way in a good hour, gentle sir, and settle the basin you bear on your head somewhat righter, and search not thus whether the cat hath three feet.’ ‘Thou art a cat, and a rat, and a knave!’ quoth Don Quixote. And so, with word and deed at once, he assaulted him so suddenly as, without giving him leisure to defend himself, he struck him down to the earth very sore wounded with a blow of his lance; and as fortune would, this was he that had the firelock piece. The rest of the guard remained astonished at the unexpected accident; but at last returning to themselves, the horsemen set hand to their swords, and the footmen to their darts, and all of them set upon Don Quixote, who expected them very quietly. And doubtlessly he would have been in danger, if the slaves perceiving the occasion offered to be so fit to recover liberty, had not procured it by breaking the chain wherein they were linked. The hurly-burly was such as the guards now began to run to hinder the slaves from untieing themselves, now to offend Don Quixote who assaulted them; so that they could do nothing available to keep their prisoners. Sancho, for his part, helped to loose Gines of Passamonte, who was the first that leaped free into the field without clog, and setting upon the overthrown commissary, he disarmed him of his sword and piece, and now aiming at the one and then at the other with it, without discharging, made all the guards to abandon the field, as well for fear of Passamonte’s piece as also to shun the marvellous showers of stones that the slaves, now delivered, poured on them. Sancho grew marvellous sad at this success; for he suspected that those which fled away would go and give notice of the violence committed to the Holy Brotherhood, which would presently issue in troops to search the delinquents; and said as much to his lord, requesting him to depart presently from thence, and embosk himself in the mountain, which was very near. ‘All is well,’ quoth Don Quixote; ‘I know now what is fit to be done.’ And so, calling together all the slaves that were in a tumult, and had stripped the commissary naked, they came all about him to hear what he commanded; to whom he said:

‘It is the part of people well born to gratify and acknowledge the benefits they receive, ingratitude being one of the sins that most offendeth the Highest. I say it, sirs, to this end, because you have, by manifest trial, seen that which you have received at my hand, in reward whereof I desire, and it is my will, that all of you, loaden with that chain from which I even now freed your necks, go presently to the city of Toboso, and there present yourselves before the Lady Dulcinea of Toboso, and recount unto her that her Knight of the Ill-favoured Face sends you there to remember his service to her; and relate unto her at large the manner of your freedom, all you that have had such noble fortune; and this being done, you may after go where you please.’

Gines de Passamonte answered for all the rest, saying, ‘That which you demand, good sir, our releaser, is most impossible to be performed, by reason that we cannot go all together through these ways, but alone and divided, procuring each of us to hide himself in the bowels of the earth, to the end we may not be found by the Holy Brotherhood, which will doubtlessly set out to search for us. That, therefore, which you may and ought to do in this exigent is, to change this service and homage of the Lady Dulcinea of Toboso into a certain number of ave-maries and creeds, which we will say for your intention; and this is a thing that may be accomplished by night or by day, running or resting, in peace or in war; but to think that we will return again to take up our chains, or set ourselves in the way of Toboso, is as hard as to make us believe that it is now night, it being yet scarce tend of the clock in the morning; and to demand such a thing of us is as likely as to seek for pears of the elm-tree.’ ‘I swear by such a one,’ quoth Don Quixote, thoroughly enraged, ‘sir son of a whore, Don Ginesilio of Parapilla, or howsoever you are called, that thou shalt go thyself alone, with thy tail between thy legs, and bear all the chain in thy neck.’ Passamonte, who was by nature very choleric, knowing assuredly that Don Quixote was not very wise (seeing he had attempted such a desperate act as to seek to give them liberty), seeing himself thus abused, winked on his companions, and, going a little aside, they sent such a shower of stones on Don Quixote, as he had no leisure to cover himself with his buckler; and poor Rozinante made no more account of the spur than if his sides were made of brass. Sancho ran behind his ass, and by his means sheltered himself from the cloud and shower of stones that rained upon both. And Don Quixote could not cover himself so well, but that a number of stones struck him in the body with so great force as they overthrew him at last to the ground; and scarce was he fallen when the student leapt upon him and took the basin off his head, and gave him three or four blows with it on the shoulders, and after struck it so oft about the ground as he almost broke it in pieces. They took from him likewise a cassock which he wore upon his armour, and thought also to take away his stockings, but that they were hindered by his greaves. From Sancho they took away his cassock, and left him in his hair; and, dividing all the spoils of the battle among themselves, they departed every one by the way he pleased, troubled with greater care how to escape from the Holy Brotherhood which they feared, than to load themselves with the iron chain, and go and present themselves before the Lady Dulcinea of Toboso. The ass and Rozinante, Sancho and Don Quixote, remained alone: the ass stood pensive, with his head hanging downwards, shaking now and then his ears, thinking that the storm of stones was not yet past, but that they still buzzed by his head; Rozinante lay overthrown by his master, who was likewise struck down by another blow of a stone; Sancho, in fear of the bullets of the Holy Brotherhood; and Don Quixote, most discontent to see himself so misused by those very same to whom he had done so much good.