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

The Fourth Book

V. Treating of That Which Befel All Don Quixote His Train in the Inn

THE DINNER being ended, they saddled and went to horse presently, and travelled all that day and the next without encountering any adventure of price, until they arrived at the only bug and scarecrow of Sancho Panza, and though he would full fain have excused his entry into it, yet could he in no wise avoid it. The innkeeper, the hostess, her daughter, and Maritornes, seeing Don Quixote and Sancho return, went out to receive them with tokens of great love and joy, and he entertained them with grave countenance and applause, and bade them to make him ready a better bed than the other which they had given unto him the time before. ‘Sir,’ quoth the hostess, ‘if you would pay us better than the last time, we would give you one for a prince.’ Don Quixote answered that he would. They prepared a reasonable good bed for him in the same wide room where he lay before; and he went presently to bed, by reason that he arrived much tired, and void of wit. And scarce was he gotten into his chamber, when the hostess leaping suddenly on the barber, and taking him by the beard, said, ‘Now, by myself blessed, thou shalt use my tail no more for a beard, and thou shalt turn me my tail; for my husband’s comb goes thrown up and down the floor, that it is a shame to see it. I mean the comb that I was wont to hang up in my good tail.’ The barber would not give it unto her for all her drawing, until the licentiate bade him to restore it, that they had now no more use thereof, but that he might now very well discover himself, and appear in his own shape, and [say] to Don Quixote that after the galley-slaves had robbed him he fled to that inn; and if Don Quixote demanded by chance for the princess her squire, that they should tell him how she had sent him before to her kingdom, to give intelligence to her subjects that she returned, bringing with her him that should free and give them all liberty. With this the barber surrendered the tail willingly to the hostess, and likewise all the other borrowed wares which she had lent for Don Quixote’s delivery. All those of the inn rested wonderful amazed at Dorothea’s beauty, and also at the comeliness of the shepherd Cardenio. Then the curate gave order to make ready for them such meat as the inn could afford; and the innkeeper, in hope of better payment, did dress very speedily for them a reasonable good dinner. Don Quixote slept all this while, and they were of opinion to let him take his rest, seeing sleep was more requisite for his disease than meat. At the table they discoursed (the innkeeper, his wife, daughter, and Maritornes, and all the other travellers being present) of Don Quixote’s strange frenzy, and of the manner wherein they found him. The hostess, eftsoons, recounted what had happened there, between him and the carrier; and looking to see whether Sancho were present, perceiving that he was away, she told likewise all the story of his canvassing, whereat they conceived no little content and pastime. And, as the curate said that the original cause of Don Quixote’s madness proceeded from the reading of books of knighthood, the innkeeper answered,—

‘I cannot conceive how that can be, for, as I believe, there is no reading so delightful in this world, and I myself have two or three books of that kind with other papers, which do verily keep me alive, and not only me, but many other. For in the reaping times, many of the reapers repair to this place in the heats of mid-day, and there is evermore some one or other among them that can read, who takes one of these books in hand, and then some thirty or more of us do compass him about, and do listen to him with such pleasure, as it hinders a thousand hoary hairs; for I dare say, at least of myself, that when I hear tell of those furious and terrible blows that knights-errant give, it inflames me with a desire to become such a one myself, and could find in my heart to be hearing of them day and night.’ ‘I am just of the same mind, no more, nor no less,’ said the hostess, ‘for I never have any quiet hour in my house, but when thou art hearing those books whereon thou art so besotted, as then thou dost only forget to chide, which is thy ordinary exercise at other times.’ ‘That is very true,’ said Maritornes; ‘and I in good sooth do take great delight to hear those things, for they are very fine, and especially when they tell how such a day lies embraced by her knight under an orange tree, and that a certain damsel keepeth watch all the while, ready to burst for envy that she hath not likewise her sweetheart, and very much afraid. I say that all those things are as sweet as honey to me.’ ‘And you,’ quoth the curate to the innkeeper’s daughter, ‘what do you think?’ ‘I know not in good sooth, sir,’ quoth she; ‘but I do likewise give ear, and in truth, although I understand it not, yet do I take some pleasure to hear them; but I mislike greatly those blows which please my father so much, and only delight in the lamentations that knights make being absent from their ladies; which in sooth do now and then make me weep through the compassion I take of them.’ ‘Well, then,’ quoth Dorothea, ‘belike, fair maiden, you would remedy them, if such plaints were breathed for your own sake?’ ‘I know not what I would do,’ answered the girl, ‘only this I know, that there are some of those ladies so cruel, as their knights call them tigers and lions, and a thousand other wild beasts. And, good Jesus, I know not what unsouled folk they be, and so without conscience, that because they will not once behold an honourable man, they suffer him either to die or run mad. And I know not to what end serves all that coyness. For if they do it for honesty’s sake, let them marry with them, for the knights desire nothing more.’ ‘Peace, child,’ quoth the hostess; ‘for it seems that thou knowest too much of those matters, and it is not decent that maidens should know or speak so much.’ ‘I speak,’ quoth she, ‘by reason that this good sir made me the demand; and I could not in courtesy omit to answer him.’ ‘Well,’ said the curate, ‘let me entreat you, good mine host, to bring us here those books, for I would fain see them.’

‘I am pleased,’ said the innkeeper; and then entering into his chamber, he brought forth a little old malet shut up with a chain; and, opening thereof, he took out three great books and certain papers written with a very fair letter. The first book he opened was that of Don Cirongilio of Thracia, the other, Felixmarte of Hircania, and the third, The History of the Great Captain, Gonzalo Hernandez of Cordova, with the life of Diego Garcia Paredes adjoined. As soon as the curate had read the titles of the two books, he said to the barber, ‘We have now great want of our friends, the old woman and niece.’ ‘Not so much as you think,’ quoth the barber; ‘for I know also the way to the yard or the chimney, and, in good sooth, there is a fire in it good enough for that purpose.’ ‘Would you then,’ quoth the host, ‘burn my books?’ ‘No more of them,’ quoth the curate, ‘but these first two of Don Cirongilio and Felixmarte.’ ‘Are my books perhaps,’ quoth the innkeeper, ‘heretical or phlegmatical, that you would thus roughly handle them?’ ‘Schismatical, thou shouldst have said,’ quoth the barber, ‘and not phlegmatical.’ ‘It is so,’ said the innkeeper; ‘but if you will needs burn any, I pray you, rather let it be that of the Great Captain, and of that Diego Garcia; for I would rather suffer one of my sons to be burned than any one of those other two.’ ‘Good friend, these two books are lying, and full of follies and vanities; but that of the Great Captain is true, and containeth the acts of Gonzalo Hernandez of Cordova, who for his sundry and noble acts merited to be termed by all the world the Great Captain, a name famous, illustrious, and only deserved by himself, and this other, Diego Garcia of Paredes, was a noble gentleman, born in the city of Truxillo in Estremadura, and was a most valorous soldier, and of so surpassing force, as he would detain a mill-wheel with one hand from turning in the midst of the speediest motion: and standing once at the end of a bridge, with a two-handed sword, defended the passage against a mighty army that attempted to pass over it; and did so many other things, that if another who were a stranger and unpassionate had written them, as he did himself who was the relater and historiographer of his own acts, and therefore recounted them with the modesty of a gentleman and proper chronicler, they would have drowned all the Hectors, Achilleses, and Rolands in oblivion.’

‘There is a jest,’ quoth the innkeeper. ‘Deal with my father, I pray you see at what you wonder. A wise tale at the withholding of the wheel of a mill. I swear you ought to read that which is read in Felixmarte of Hircania, who with one thwart blow cut five mighty giants in halves, as if they were of beans, like to the little friars that children make of bean-cods; and set another time upon a great and most powerful army of more than a million and six hundred thousand soldiers, and overthrew and scattered them all like a flock of sheep. What, then, can you say to me of the good Cirongilio of Thracia, who was so animous and valiant, as may be seen in his book; wherein is laid down, that, as he sailed along a river, there issued out of the midst of the water a serpent of fire, and he, as soon as he perceived it, leaped upon her, and hanging by her scaly shoulders, he wrung her throat so straitly between both his arms, that the serpent, perceiving herself to be well-nigh strangled, had no other way to save herself but by diving down into the deeps, carrying the knight away with her, who would never let go his grip, and when they came to the bottom he found himself by a palace in such fair and pleasant gardens, as it was a wonder; and presently the serpent turned into an old man, which said to him such things as there is no more to be desired. Two figs for the Great Captain and that Diego Garcia of whom you speak.’

Dorothea, hearing him speak thus, said to Cardenio, ‘Methinks our host wants but little to make up a second part of Don Quixote.’ ‘So it seems to me likewise,’ replied Cardenio; ‘for, as we may conjecture by his words, he certainly believes that everything written in those books passed just as it is laid down, and barefooted friars would be scarce able to persuade him the contrary.’ ‘Know, friend,’ quoth the curate to the innkeeper, ‘that there was never any such a man as Felixmarte of Hircania, or Don Cirongilio of Thracia, nor other such knights as books of chivalry recount; for all is but a device and fiction of idle wits that composed them, to the end that thou sayst, to pass over the time, as your readers do in reading of them. For I sincerely swear unto thee, that there were never such knights in the world, nor such adventures and ravings happened in it.’ ‘Cast that bone to another dog,’ quoth the innkeeper, ‘as though I knew not how many numbers are five, and where the shoe wrests me now. I pray you, sir, go not about to give me pap, for by the Lord I am not so white. Is it not a good sport that you labour to persuade me, that all that which these good books say are but ravings and fables, they being printed by grace and favour of the Lords of the Privy Council; as if they were folk that would permit so many lies to be printed at once, and so many battles and enchantments, as are able to make a man run out of his wits.’ ‘I have told thee already, friend,’ said the curate, ‘that this is done for the recreation of our idle thoughts, and so even as, in well-governed commonwealths, the plays at chess, tennis, and trucks are tolerated for the pastime of some men which have none other occupation, and either ought not or cannot work, even so such books are permitted to be printed; presuming (as in truth they ought, that no man would be found so simple and ignorant as to hold any of these books for a true history. And if my leisure permitted, and that it were a thing requisite for this auditory, I could say may things concerning the subject of books of knighthood, to the end that they should be well contrived, and also be pleasant and profitable to the readers; but I hope sometime to have the commodity to communicate my conceit with those that may redress it. And in the meanwhile, you may believe, good mine host, what I have said, and take to you your books, and agree with their truths or leasings as you please, and much good may it do you; and I pray God that you halt not in time on the foot that your guest Don Quixote halteth.’ ‘Not so,’ quoth the innkeeper, ‘for I will never be so wood as to become a knight-errant, for I see well that what was used in the times of these famous knights is now in no use nor request.’

Sancho came in about the midst of this discourse, and rested much confounded and pensative of that which he heard them say, that knights-errant were now in no request, and that the books of chivalry only contained follies and lies, and purposed with himself to see the end of that voyage of his lord’s, and that if it sorted not the wished success which he expected, he resolved to leave him and return home to his wife and children and accustomed labour. The innkeeper thought to take away his books and budget, but the curate withheld him, saying, ‘Stay a while, for I would see what papers are those which are written in so fair a character.’ The host took them out and gave them to him to read, being in number some eight sheets, with a title written in text letters, which said, The History of the Curious-Impertinent. The curate read two or three lines softly to himself, and said after, ‘Truly the title of this history doth not mislike, me, and therefore I am about to read it through.’ The innkeeper hearing him, said, ‘Your reverence may very well do it, for I assure you that some guests which have read it here, as they travelled, did commend it exceedingly, and have begged it of me as earnestly, but I would never bestow it, hoping some day to restore it to the owner of this malet, who forgot it here behind him with these books and papers, for it may be that he will sometime return, and although I know that I shall have great want of the books, yet will I make to him restitution, for although I am an innkeeper, yet God be thanked I am a Christian therewithal.’ ‘You have great reason, my friend,’ quoth the curate; ‘but yet notwithstanding, if the taste like me, thou must give me leave to take a copy thereof.’ ‘With all my heart,’ replied the host. And as they two talked, Cardenio, taking the book, began to read a little of it, and, it pleasing him as much as it had done the curate, he requested him to read it in such sort as they might all hear him. ‘That I would willingly do,’ said the curate, ‘if the time were not now more fit for sleeping than reading.’ ‘It were sufficient repose for me,’ said Dorothea, ‘to pass away the time listening to some tale or other, for my spirit is not yet so well quieted as to afford me licence to sleep, even then when nature exacteth it.’ ‘If that be so,’ quoth the curate, ‘I will read it, if it were but for curiosity; perhaps it containeth some delightful matter.’ Master Nicholas and Sancho entreated the same. The curate, seeing and knowing that he should therein do them all a pleasure, and he himself likewise receive as great, said, ‘Seeing you will needs hear it, be all of you attentive, for the history beginneth in this manner.’