Home  »  Don Quixote, Part 1  »  VII. Of the High Adventure and Rich Winning of the Helmet of Mambrino, with Other Successes Which Befel the Invincible Knight

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

The Third Book

VII. Of the High Adventure and Rich Winning of the Helmet of Mambrino, with Other Successes Which Befel the Invincible Knight

IT began about this time to rain, and Sancho would fain have entered into the fulling-mills; but Don Quixote had conceived such hate against them for the jest recounted, as he would in no wise come near them; but, turning his way on the right hand, he fell into a highway, as much beaten as that wherein they rode the day before. Within a while after, Don Quixote espied one a-horseback, that bore on his head somewhat that glistered like gold; and scarce had he seen him, when he turned to Sancho, and said, ‘Methinks, Sancho, that there’s no proverb that is not true; for they are all sentences taken out of experience itself, which is the universal mother of sciences! and specially that proverb that says, “Where one door is shut, another is opened.” I say this because, if fortune did shut yesternight the door that we searched, deceiving us in the adventure of the iron maces, it lays us now wide open the door that may address us to a better and more certain adventure, whereon, if I cannot make a good entry, the fall shall be mine, without being able to attribute it to the little knowledge of the fulling-maces, or the darkness of the night; which I affirm because, if I be not deceived, there comes one towards us that wears on his head the helmet of Mambrino, for which I made the oath.’ ‘See well what you say, sir, and better what you do,’ quoth Sancho; ‘for I would not wish that this were new maces, to batter us and our understanding.’ ‘The devil take thee for a man!’ replied Don Quixote; ‘what difference is there betwixt a helmet and fulling-maces?’ ‘I know not,’ quoth Sancho; ‘but if I could speak as much as I was wont, perhaps I would give you such reasons as you yourself should see how much you are deceived in that you speak.’ ‘How may I be deceived in that I say, scrupulous traitor?’ quoth Don Quixote. ‘Tell me, seest thou not that knight which comes riding towards us on a dapple-grey horse, with a helmet of gold on his head?’ ‘That which I see and find out to be so,’ answered Sancho, ‘is none other than a man on a grey ass like mine own, and brings on his head somewhat that shines.’ ‘Why, that is Mambrino’s helmet,’ quoth Don Quixote. ‘Stand aside, and leave me alone with him; thou shalt see how, without speech, to cut off delays, I will conclude this adventure, and remain with the helmet as mine own which I have so much desired.’ ‘I will have care to stand off; but I turn again to say, that I pray God that it be a purchase of gold, and not fulling-mills.’ ‘I have already said unto thee that thou do not make any more mention, no, not in thought, of those maces; for if thou dost,’ said Don Quixote, ‘I vow, I say no more, that I will batter thy soul.’ Here Sancho, fearing lest his master would accomplish the vow which he had thrown out as round as a bowl, held his peace.

This therefore, is the truth of the history of the helmet, horse, and knight, which Don Quixote saw. There was in that commark two villages, the one so little as it had neither shop nor barber, but the greater, that was near unto it, was furnished of one; and he therefore did serve the little village when they had any occasion, as now it befell that therein lay one sick, and must be let blood, and another that desired to trim his beard; for which purpose the barber came, bringing with him a brazen basin. And as he travelled, it by chance began to rain, and therefore clapped his basin on his head to save his hat from staining, because it belike was a new one; and the basin being clean scoured, glistered half a league off. He rode on a grey ass, as Sancho said, and that was the reason why Don Quixote took him to be a dapple-grey steed, a knight, and a helmet of gold; for he did, with all facility, apply everything which he saw to his raving chivalry and ill-errant thoughts. And when he saw that the poor knight drew near, without settling himself to commune with him, he rested his javelin low on the thigh, and ran with all the force Rozinante might, thinking to strike him through and through; and, drawing near unto him, without stopping his horse, he cried, ‘Defend thyself, caitiff! or else render unto me willingly that which is my due by all reason.’

The barber, who so without fearing or surmising any such thing, saw that fantasy and spirit came upon him, had no other remedy, to avoid the blow of the lance, but to fall off his ass to the ground; and scarce had he touched the earth, when rising up again as light as a deer, he ran away so swiftly through the plain as the wind could scarce overtake him, leaving behind him on the ground his basin; wherewithal Don Quixote rested content, and said that pagan which lost it was discreet, and did imitate the castor, who seeing himself hotly pursued by the hunters, which tears and cuts away that with his teeth for which he knows by natural instinct he is followed.

Then he commanded Sancho to take up the helmet; who, lifting it, said, ‘The basin is a good one, by God, and is as well worth a real of eight as a marvedi.’ And, giving it to his lord, he presently set it on his head, turning about every way to see whether he could get the beaver; and, seeing he could not find it, he said, ‘The pagan for whom this famous helmet was first forged had doubtlessly a very great head; and that which grieves me principally is that this helmet wants the one half.’

When Sancho heard him call the basin a helmet, he could not contain his laughter; but presently remembering of his master’s choler, he checked it in the midst. ‘Why dost thou laugh, Sancho?’ quoth Don Quixote. ‘I laugh,’ said he, ‘to think on the great head the pagan owner of this helmet had; for it is for all the world like a barber’s basin.’ ‘Know, Sancho, that I imagine,’ quoth Don Quixote, ‘that this famous piece of this enchanted helmet did fall, by some strange accident, into some one’s hands that knew not the worth thereof, and seeing it was of pure gold, without knowing what he did, I think he hath molten the half, to profit himself therewithal, and made of the other half this, which seems a barber’s basin, as thou sayst: but be it what it list, to me who knows well what it is, his transmutation makes no matter; for I will dress it in the first town where I shall find a smith, as that which the God of Forges made for the God of War shall not surpass, no, nor come near it; and in the meanwhile I will wear it as I may, for something is better than nothing; and more, seeing it may very well defend me from the blow of a stone.’ ‘That’s true,’ quoth Sancho, ‘if it be not thrown out of a sling, such as that of the battle of the two armies, when they blessed your worship’s cheek teeth, and broke the bottle wherein you carried the most blessed drench which made me vomit up my guts.’ ‘I do not much care for the loss of it, Sancho,’ quoth Don Quixote; ‘for, as thou knowest, I have the recipe in memory.’ ‘So have I likewise,’ quoth Sancho; ‘but if ever I make it or taste it again in my life, I pray God that here may be mine end: how much more, I never mean to thrust myself into any occasion wherein I should have need of it; for I mean, with all my five senses, to keep myself from hurting any, or being hurt. Of being once again tossed in a coverlet, I say nothing; for such disgraces can hardly be prevented, and if they befall, there is no other remedy but patience, and to lift up the shoulders, keep in the breath, shut the eyes, and suffer ourselves to be borne where fortune and the coverlet pleaseth.’

‘Thou art a bad Christian, Sancho,’ quoth Don Quixote, hearing him say so; ‘for thou never forgettest the injuries that are once done to thee: know that it is the duty of noble and generous minds not to make any account of toys. What leg hast thou brought away lame, what rib broken, or what head hurt, that thou canst not yet forget that jest? For the thing being well examined, it was none other than a jest or pastime; for if I did not take it to be such, I had returned by this to that place, and done more harm in thy revenge than that which the Greeks did for the rape of Helen: who, if she were in these times, or my Dulcinea in hers, she might be sure she should never have gained so much fame for beauty as she did.’ And, saying so, he pierced the sky with a sigh. ‘Then,’ said Sancho, ‘let it pass for a jest, since the revenge cannot pass in earnest; but I know well the quality both of the jest and earnest, and also that they shall never fall out of my memory, as they will never out of my shoulders. But, leaving this apart, what shall we do with this dapple-grey steed, that looks so like a grey ass, which that Martin left behind, whom you overthrew, who according as he laid feet on the dust and made haste, he minds not to come back for him again; and, by my beard, the grey beast is a good one.’ ‘I am not accustomed,’ quoth Don Quixote, ‘to ransack and spoil those whom I overcome; nor is it the practice of chivalry to take their horses and let them go afoot, if that it befall [not] the victor to lose in the conflict his own; for in such a case it is lawful to take that of the vanquished as won in fair war. So that, Sancho, leave that horse, or ass, or what else thou pleasest to call it; for when his owner sees us departed, he will return again for it;’ ‘God knows,’ quoth Sancho, ‘whether it will be good or no for me to take him, or at least change for mine own, which, methinks, is not so good. Truly the laws of knighthood are strait, since they extend not themselves to license the exchange of one ass for another. And I would know whether they permit at least to exchange the one harness for another?’ ‘In that I am not very sure,’ quoth Don Quixote; ‘and as a case of doubt (until I be better informed), I say that thou exchange them, if by chance thy need be extreme.’ ‘So extreme,’ quoth Sancho, ‘that if they were for mine own very person, I could not need them more.’ And presently, enabled by the license, he made mutatio caparum, and set forth his beast like a hundred holidays.

This being done, they broke their fast with the relics of the spoils they had made in the camp of sumpter-horse, and drank of the mills’ streams, without once turning to look on them (so much they abhorred them for the marvellous terror they had strucken them in); and having by their repast cut away all choleric and melancholic humours, they followed on the way which Rozinante pleased to lead them, who was the depository of his master’s will, and also of the ass’, who followed him always wheresoever he went, in good amity and company: for all this, they returned to the highway, wherein they travelled at random, without any certain deliberation which way to go. And as they thus travelled, Sancho said to his lord, ‘Sir, will you give me leave to commune a little with you? for, since you have imposed upon me that sharp commandment of silence more than four things have rotted in my stomach; and one thing that I have now upon the tip of my tongue, I would not wish for anything that it should miscarry.’ ‘Say it,’ quoth Don Quixote, ‘and be brief in thy reasons; for none is delightful if it be prolix.’ ‘I say then,’ quoth Sancho, ‘that I have been these later days considering how little is gained by following these adventures that you do through these deserts and cross-ways, where, though you overcome and finish the most dangerous, yet no man sees or knows them, and so they shall remain in perpetual silence, both to your prejudice and that of the fame which they deserve. And therefore, methinks, it were better (still expecting your better judgment herein), that we went to serve some emperor or other great prince that maketh war, in whose service you might show the valour of your person, your marvellous force, and wonderful judgment; which being perceived by the lord whom we shall serve, he must perforce reward us, every one according to his deserts; and in such a place will not want one to record your noble acts for a perpetual memory. Of mine I say nothing, seeing they must not transgress the squire-like limits; although I dare avouch that, if any notice be taken in chivalry of the feats of squires, mine shall not fall away betwixt the lines.’

‘Sancho, thou sayst not ill,’ quoth Don Quixote; ‘but before such a thing come to pass, it is requisite to spend some time up and down the world, as in probation, seeking of adventures, to the end that, by achieving some, a man may acquire such fame and renown, as when he goes to the court of any great monarch, he be there already known by his works; and that he shall scarcely be perceived to enter at the gates by the boys of that city, when they all will follow and environ him, crying out aloud, This is the Knight of the Sun, or the Serpent, or of some other device under which he hath achieved strange adventures. “This is he,” will they say, “who overcame in single fight the huge giant Brocabruno of the invincible strength; he that disenchanted the great Sophy of Persia, of the large enchantment wherein he had lain almost nine hundred years.” So that they will thus go proclaiming his acts from hand to hand; and presently the king of that kingdom, moved by the great bruit of the boys and other people, will stand at the windows of his palace to see what it is; and as soon as he shall eye the knight, knowing him by his arms, or by the imprese of his shield, he must necessarily say, “Up! go all of you, my knights, as many of you as are in court, forth, to receive the flower of chivalry, which comes there.” At whose command they all will sally, and he himself will come down to the midst of the stairs, and will embrace him most straitly, and will give him the peace, kissing him on the cheek; and presently will carry him by the hand to the queen’s chamber, where the knight shall find her accompanied by the princess her daughter, which must be one of the fairest and debonaire damsels that can be found throughout the vast compass of the earth. After this will presently and in a trice succeed, that she will cast her eye on the knight, and he on her, and each of them shall seem to the other no human creature, but an angel; and then, without knowing how, or how not, they shall remain captive and entangled in the inextricable amorous net, and with great care in their minds, because they know not how they shall speak to discover the anguish and feeling. From thence the king will carry him, without doubt, to some quarter of his palace richly hanged; where, having taken off his arms, they will bring him a rich mantle of scarlet, furred with ermines, to wear; and if he seemed well before, being armed, he shall now look as well, or better, out of them. The night being come, he shall sup with the king, queen, and princess, where he shall never take his eye off her, beholding unawares of those that stand present, and she will do the like with as much discretion; for, as I have said, she is a very discreet damsel. The tables shall be taken up; there shall enter, unexpectedly, in at the hall, an ill-favoured little dwarf, with a fair lady that comes behind the dwarf between two giants, with a certain adventure, wrought by a most ancient wise man, and that he who shall end it shall be held for the best knight of the world. Presently the king will command all those that are present to prove it, which they do, but none of them can finish it but only the new-come knight, to the great proof of his fame; whereat the princess will remain very glad, and will be very joyful, and well apaid, because she hath settled her thoughts in so high a place. And the best of it is, that this king, or prince, or what else he is, hath a very great war with another as mighty as he; and the knight his guest doth ask him (after he hath been in the court a few days) license to go and serve him in that war. The king will give it with a very good will, and the knight will kiss his hands courteously for the favour he doth him therein. And that night he will take leave of his lady, the princess, by some window of a garden that looks into her bed-chamber, by the which he hath spoken to her ofttimes before,—being a great means and help thereto, a certain damsel which the princess trusts very much. He sighs, and she will fall in a swoon, and the damsel will bring water to bring her to herself again; she will be also full of care because the morning draws near, and she would not have them discovered by any, for her lady’s honour. Finally, the princess will return to herself, and will give out her beautiful hands at the window to the knight, who will kiss them a thousand and a thousand times, and will bathe them all in tears. There it will remain agreed between them two the means that they will use to acquaint one another with their good or bad successes; and the princess will pray him to stay away as little time as he may; which he shall promise unto her, with many oaths and protestations. Then will he turn again to kiss her hands, and take his leave of her with such feeling, that there will want but little to end his life in the place. He goes from thence to his chamber, and casts himself upon his bed; but he shall not be able to sleep a nap for sorrow of his departure. He will after get up very early, and will go to take leave of the king, the queen, and princess. They tell him (having taken leave of the first two) that the princess is ill at ease, and that she cannot be visited: the knight thinks that it is for grief of his departure, and the which tidings lanceth him anew to the bottom of his heart, whereby he will be almost constrained to give manifest tokens of his grief. The damsel that is privy to their loves will be present, and must note all that passeth, and go after to tell it to her mistress, who receives her with tears, and says unto her, that one of the greatest afflictions she hath is, that she doth not know who is her knight, or whether he be of blood royal or no. Her damsel will assure her again, that so great bounty, beauty, and valour as is in her knight could not find place but in a great and royal subject. The careful princess will comfort herself with this hope, and labour to be cheerful, lest she should give occasion to her parents to suspect any sinister thing of her; and within two days again she will come out in public. By this the knight is departed: he fights in the war, and overcomes the king’s enemy; he wins many cities, and triumphs for many battles; he returns to the court; he visits his lady, and speaks to her at the accustomed place; he agreeth with her to demand her of the king for his wife, in reward of his services; whereunto the king will not consent, because he knows not what he is; but for all this, either by carrying her away, or by some other manner, the princess becomes his wife, and he accounts himself therefore very fortunate, because it was after known that the same knight is son to a very valorous king, of I know not what country; for I believe it is not in all the map. The father dies, and the princess doth inherit the kingdom; and thus, in two words, our knight is become a king. Here in this place enters presently the commodity to reward his squire, and all those that helped him to ascend to so high an estate. He marries his squire with one of the princess’ damsels, which shall doubtless be the very same that was acquainted with his love, who is some principal duke’s daughter.’

‘That’s it I seek for,’ quoth Sancho, ‘and all will go right; therefore I will leave to that, for every whit of it which you said will happen to yourself, without missing a jot, calling yourself, the Knight of the Ill-favoured Face.’ ‘Never doubt it, Sancho,’ quoth Don Quixote; ‘for even in the very same manner, and by the same steps that I have recounted here, knights-errant do ascend, and have ascended, to be kings and emperors. This only is expedient, that we inquire what king among the Christians or heathens makes war and hath a fair daughter: but we shall have time enough to bethink that, since, as I have said, we must first acquire fame in other places, before we go to the court. Also I want another thing, that put case that we find a Christian or pagan king that hath wars and a fair daughter, and that I have gained incredible fame throughout the wide world, yet cannot I tell how I might find that I am descended from kings, or that I am at the least cousin-german removed of an emperor; for the king will not give me his daughter until this be first very well proved, though my works deserve it never so much; so that I fear to lose, through this defect, that which mine own hath merited so well. True it is that I am a gentleman of a known house of propriety and possession; and perhaps the wise man that shall write my history will so beautify my kindred and descent, that he will find me to be the fifth or sixth descent from a king. For thou must understand, Sancho, that there are two manners of lineages in the world: some that derive their pedigree from princes and monarchs, whom time hath by little and little diminished and consumed, and ended in a point like pyramids; others, that took their beginning from base people, and ascend from degree unto degree, until they become at last great lords. So that all the difference is, that some were that which they are not now, and others are that which they were not; and it might be that I am of those, and, after good examination, my beginning might be found to have been famous and glorious, wherewithal the king, my father-in-law, ought to be content, whosoever he were; and when he were not, yet shall the princess love me in such sort, that she shall, in despite of her father’s teeth, admit me for her lord and spouse, although she knew me to be the son of a water-bearer. And if not, here in this place may quader well the carrying of her away perforce, and carrying of her where best I liked; for either time or death must needs end her father’s displeasure.’

‘Here comes well to pass that,’ [said] Sancho, ‘which some damned fellows are wont to say, “Seek not to get that with a good will which thou mayst take perforce”; although it were better said, “The leap of a shrub is more worth than good men’s entreaties.” I say it to this purpose, that if the king, your father-in-law, will not condescend to give unto you the princess, my mistress, then there’s no more to be done, but, as you say, to steal her away and carry her to another place; but all the harm is that, in the meanwhile that composition is unmade, and you possess not quietly your kingdom, the poor squire may whistle for any benefit or pleasure you are able to do him, if it be not that the damsel of whom you spoke even now run away with her lady, and that he pass away his misfortunes now and then with her, until Heaven ordain some other thing; for I do think that his lord may give her unto him presently, if she please to be his lawful spouse.’ ‘There’s none that can deprive thee of that,’ quoth Don Quixote. ‘Why, so that this may befall,’ quoth Sancho, ‘there’s no more but to commend ourselves to God, and let fortune run where it may best address us.’ ‘God bring it so to pass,’ quoth Don Quixote, ‘as I desire, and thou hast need of, Sancho; and let him be a wretch that accounts himself one.’ ‘Let him be so,’ quoth Sancho; ‘for I am an old Christian, and to be an earl there is no more requisite.’ ‘Ay, and ’tis more than enough,’ quoth Don Quixote, ‘for that purpose; and though thou wert not, it made not much matter; for I, being a king, may give thee nobility, without either buying of it, or serving me with nothing; for, in creating thee an earl, lo! thereby thou art a gentleman. And, let men say what they please, they must, in good faith, call thee “right honourable,” although it grieve them never so much.’ ‘And think you,’ quoth Sancho, ‘that I would not authorise my litado?’ ‘Thou must say dictado, or dignity,’ quoth Don Quixote, ‘and not litado, for that’s a barbarous word.’ ‘Let it be so,’ quoth Sancho Panza. ‘I say that I would accommodate all very well; for I was once the warner of a confratriety, and the warner’s gown became me so well that every one said I had a presence fit for the provost of the same: then how much more when I shall set on my shoulders the royal robe of a duke, or be apparelled with gold and pearls, after the custom of strange earls? I do verily believe that men will come a hundred leagues to see me.’ ‘Thou wilt seem very well,’ quoth Don Quixote; ‘but thou must shave that beard very often; for as thou hast it now, so bushy, knit, and unhandsome, if thou shavest it not with a razor at the least every other day, men will know that thou art as far from gentility as a musket can carry.’ ‘What more is there to be done,’ quoth Sancho, ‘than to take a barber and keep him hired in my house? yea, and if it be necessary, he shall ride after me, as if he were a master of horse to some nobleman.’ ‘How knowest thou,’ quoth Don Quixote, ‘that noblemen have their masters of horses riding after them?’ ‘Some few years ago I was a month in the court, and there I saw that a young little lord rode by for his pleasure; they said he was a great grandee; there followed him still a-horseback a certain man, turning every way that he went, so as he verily seemed to be his horse’s tail. I then demanded the cause why that man did not ride by the other’s side, but still did follow him so. They answered me that he was master of his horses, and that the grandees were accustomed to carry such men after them.’ ‘Thou sayst true,’ quoth Don Quixote, ‘and thou mayst carry thy barber in that manner after thee; for customs came not all together, nor were not invented at once; and thou mayst be the first earl that carried his barber after him: and I do assure thee that it is an office of more trust to trim a man’s beard to saddle a horse.’ ‘Let that of the barber rest to my charge,’ quoth Sancho, ‘and that of procuring to be a king, and of creating me an earl, to yours.’ ‘It shall be so,’ quoth Don Quixote. And thus, lifting up his eyes, he saw that which shall be recounted in the chapter following.