Home  »  Don Quixote, Part 1  »  XI. Which Treats of the Strange Adventures That Happened to the Knight of the Mancha in Sierra Morena; and of the Penance He Did There, in Imitation of Beltenebros

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

The Third Book

XI. Which Treats of the Strange Adventures That Happened to the Knight of the Mancha in Sierra Morena; and of the Penance He Did There, in Imitation of Beltenebros

DON QUIXOTE took leave of the goatherd, and, mounting once again on Rozinante, he commanded Sancho to follow him, who obeyed but with a very ill will: and thus they travelled by little and little, entering into the thickest and roughest part of all the mountain; and Sancho went almost burst with a desire to reason with his master, and therefore wished in mind that he would once begin, that he might not transgress his commandment of silence imposed on him, but growing at last wholly impotent to contain himself speechless any longer: ‘Good sir Don Quixote, I pray you give me your blessing and licence; for I mean to depart from this place, and return to my house, my wife and children, with whom I shall be, at least, admitted to reason and speak my pleasure; for that you would desire to have me keep you company through these deserts night and day, and that I may not speak when I please, is but to bury me alive. Yet, if fortune had so happily disposed our affairs as that beasts could speak, as they did in Guisopete’s time, the harm had been less; for then would I discourse a while with Rozinante (seeing my niggardly fortune hath not consented I might do it with mine ass) what I thought good, and in this sort would I waive my mishaps; for it is a stubborn thing, and that cannot be borne with patience, to travel all the days of our life, and not to encounter any other thing than tramplings under feet, tossings in coverlets, blows of stones and buffets, and be besides all this forced to sew up our mouths, a man daring not to break his mind, but to stand mute like a post.’ ‘Sancho, I understand thee now,’ quoth Don Quixote; ‘thou diest with longing to speak that which I have forbidden thee to speak; account, therefore, that commandment revoked, and say what thou pleasest, on condition that this revocation be only available and of force whilst we dwell in these mountains, and no longer.’

‘So be it,’ quoth Sancho; ‘let me speak now, for what may after befall, God only knows.’ And then, beginning to take the benefit of his licence, he said, ‘I pray you, tell me what benefit could you reap by taking Queen Madasima’s part? or what was it to the purpose that that abbot was her friend or no? For, if you had let it slip, seeing you were not his judge, I verily believe that the fool had prosecuted his tale, and we should have escaped the blow of the stone, the trampling under feet, and spurnings; yea, and more than five or six good buffets.’ ‘In faith, Sancho,’ quoth Don Quixote, ‘if thou knewest as well as I did how honourable and principal a lady was Queen Madasima, thou wouldst rather say that I had great patience, seeing I did not strike him on the mouth out of which such blasphemies issued; for it is a very great dishonour to aver or think that any queen would fall in love with a barber. For the truth of the history is, that Master Elisabat, of whom the madman spoke, was very prudent, and a man of a sound judgment, and served the queen as her tutor and physician; but to think that she was his leman is a madness worthy the severest punishment; and to the end thou mayst see that Cardenio knew not what he said, thou must understand that when he spoke it he then was wholly beside himself.’

‘That’s it which I say,’ quoth Sancho, ‘that you ought not to make account of words spoken by a fool; for if fortune had not assisted you, but addressed the stone to your head, as it did to your breast, we should have remained in good plight, for having turned so earnestly in that my lady’s defence, whom God confound. And think you that Cardenio would not escape the dangers of the law, by reason of his madness?’ ‘Any knight-errant,’ answered Don Quixote, ‘is bound to turn for the honour of women, of what quality soever, against mad or unmad men; how much more for queens of so high degree and worth as was Queen Madasima, to whom I bear particular affections for her good parts? For, besides her being marvellous beautiful, she was, moreover, very prudent and patient in her calamities, which were very many; and the company and counsels of Master Elisabat proved very beneficial and necessary, to induce her to bear her mishaps with prudence and patience: and hence the ignorant and ill-meaning vulgar took occasion to suspect and affirm that she was his friend. But I say again they lie, and all those that do either think or say it, do lie a thousand times.’

‘Why,’ quoth Sancho, ‘I neither say it nor think it. Let those affirm any such thing, eat that lie and swallow it with their bread; and if they of whom you speak lived lightly, they have given account to God thereof by this. I come from my vineyard; I know nothing. I am not afraid to know other men’s lives; for he that buys and lies shall feel it in his purse. How much more, seeing I was born naked, and am now naked, I can neither win nor lose! A man is but a man, though he have a hose on his head; but howsoever, what is that to me? And many think there is a sheep where there is no fleece. But who shall bridle a man’s understanding, when men are profane?’ ‘Good God! quoth Don Quixote, ‘how many follies hast thou inserted here! and how wide from our purpose are those proverbs which thou hast recited! Honest Sancho, hold thy peace; and from henceforth endeavour to serve thy master, and do not meddle with things which concern thee nothing; and understand, with all thy five senses, that whatsoever I have done, do, or shall do, is wholly guided by reason, and conformable to the rules of knighthood, which I know better than all the other knights that ever professed them in the world.’ ‘Sir,’ quoth Sancho, ‘and is it a good rule of chivalry that we go wandering and lost among these mountains in this sort, without path or way, in the search of a madman, to whom peradventure, after he is found, will return a desire to finish what he began, not of his tale, but of your head and my ribs, by endeavouring to break them soundly and thoroughly?’

‘Peace, I say, Sancho, once again,’ quoth Don Quixote; ‘for thou must wit that the desire of finding the madman alone brings me not into these parts so much, as that which I have in my mind to achieve a certain adventure, by which I shall acquire eternal renown and fame throughout the universal face of the earth; and I shall therewithal seal all that which may render a knight errant complete and famous.’ ‘And is the adventure very dangerous?’ quoth Sancho Panza. ‘No,’ answered the Knight of the Ill-favoured Face, ‘although the die might run in such sort as we might cast a hazard instead of an encounter; but all consists in thy diligence.’ ‘In mine?’ quoth Sancho. ‘Yes,’ quoth Don Quixote; ‘for if thou returnest speedily from the place whereunto I mean to send thee, my pain will also end shortly, and my glory commence very soon after. And because I will not hold thee long suspended, awaiting to hear the effect of my words, I would have thee to know that the famous Amadis de Gaul was one of the most accomplished knights-errant,—I do not say well saying he was one; for he was the only, the first, and prime lord of as many as lived in his age. An evil year and a worse month for Don Belianis, or any other that shall dare presume to compare with him, for I swear that they all are, questionless, deceived. I also say, that when a painter would become rare and excellent in his art, he procures to imitate the patterns of the most singular masters of his science; and this very rule runs current throughout all other trades and exercises of account which serve to adorn a well disposed commonwealth; and so ought and doth he that means to obtain the name of a prudent and patient man, by imitating Ulysses, in whose person and dangers doth Homer delineate unto us the true portraiture of patience and sufferance; as likewise Virgil demonstrates, under the person of Aeneas, the duty and valour of a pious son, and the sagacity of a hardy and expert captain, not showing them such as indeed they were, but as they should be, to remain as an example of virtue to ensuing posterities. And in this very manner was Amadis the north star and the sun of valorous and amorous knights, whom all we ought to imitate which march under the ensigns of love and chivalry. And this being so manifest as it is, I find, friend Sancho, that the knight errant who shall imitate him most shall likewise be nearest to attain the perfection of arms. And that wherein this knight bewrayed most his prudence, valour, courage, patience, constancy, and love, was when he retired himself to do penance, being disdained by his lady Oriana, to the Poor Rock, changing his name unto that of Beltenebros: a name certainly most significative and proper for the life which he had at that time willingly chosen. And I may more easily imitate him herein than in cleaving of giants, beheading of serpents, killing of monsters, overthrowing of armies, putting navies to flight, and finishing of enchantments. And seeing that this mountain is so fit for that purpose, there is no reason why I should overslip the occasion, which doth so commodiously proffer me her locks.’

‘In effect,’ quoth Sancho, ‘what is it you mean to do in these remote places?’ ‘Have not I told thee already,’ said Don Quixote, ‘that I mean to follow Amadis, by playing here the despaired, wood, and furious man? To imitate likewise the valiant Orlando, where he found the tokens by a fountain that Angelica the fair had abused herself with Medozo; for grief whereof he ran mad, and plucked up trees by their roots, troubled the waters of clear fountains, slew shepherds, destroyed their flocks, fired the sheepfolds, overthrew houses, trailed mares after him, and committed a hundred thousand other insolences, worthy of eternal fame and memory. And although I mean not to imitate Roldan, or Orlando, or Rowland (for he had all these names), exactly in every mad prank that he played, yet will I do it the best I can in those things which shall seem unto me most essential. And perhaps I may rest contented with the only imitation of Amadis, who, without endamaging, and by his ravings, and only using these of feeling laments, [arrived] to as great fame thereby as anyone whatsoever.’

‘I believe,’ replied Sancho, ‘that the knights which performed the like penances were moved by some reasons to do the like austerities and follies; but, good sir, what occasion hath been offered unto you to become mad? What lady hath disdained you? Or what arguments have you found that the Lady Dulcinea of Toboso hath ever dallied with Moor or Christian?’ ‘There is the point,’ answered our knight, ‘and therein consists the perfection of mine affairs; for that a knight-errant do run mad upon any just occasion deserves neither praise nor thanks; the wit is in waxing mad without cause, whereby my mistress may understand, that if dry I could do this, what would I have done being watered? How much more, seeing I have a just motive, through the prolix absence that I have made from my ever supremest Lady Dulcinea of Toboso? For, as thou mightest have heard read in Marias Ambrosio his Shepherd,—

  • “To him that absent is,
  • All things succeed amiss.”
So that, friend Sancho, I would not have thee lavish time longer in advising to let slip so rare, so happy, and singular an imitation. I am mad, and will be mad, until thou return again with answer upon a letter, which I mean to send with thee to my Lady Dulcinea; and if it be such as my loyalty deserves, my madness and penance shall end; but if the contrary, I shall run mad in good earnest, and be in that state that I shall apprehend nor feel anything. So that, howsoever I be answered, I shall issue out of the conflict and pain wherein thou leavest me, by joying the good thou shalt bring me, as wise; or not feeling the evil thou shalt denounce, as mad. But tell me, Sancho keepest thou charily yet the helmet of Mambrino, which I saw thee take up from the ground the other day, when that ungrateful fellow thought to have broken it into pieces, but could not, by which may be collected the excellent temper thereof?’

Sancho answered to this demand, saying, ‘I cannot suffer or bear longer, sir Knight of the Ill-favoured Face, nor take patiently many things which you say; and I begin to suspect, by your words, that all that which you have said to me of chivalry, and of gaining kingdoms and empires, of bestowing islands and other gifts and great things, as knights-errant are wont, are all matters of air and lies, all cozenage or cozening, or how else you please to term it; for he that shall hear you name a barber’s basin Mambrino’s helmet, and that you will not abandon that error in more than four days, what other can he think but that he who affirms such a thing doth want wit and discretion? I carry the basin in my bag, all battered and bored, and will have it mended, and dress my beard in it at home, if God shall do me the favour that I may one day see my wife and bairns.’

‘Behold, Sancho,’ quoth Don Quixote, ‘I do likewise swear that thou hast the shallowest pate that ever any squire had or hath in the world. Is it possible that, in all the time thou hast gone with me, thou couldst not perceive that all the adventures of knights-errant do appear chimeras, follies, and desperate things, being quite contrary? Not that they are indeed such; but rather, by reason that we are still haunted by a crew of enchanters, which change and transform our acts, making them seem what they please, according as they like to favour or annoy us; and so this, which seems to thee a barber’s basin, is in my conceit Mambrino his helmet, and to another will appear in some other shape. And it is doubtlessly done by the profound science of the wise man my friend, to make that seem a basin which, really and truly, is Mambrino’s helmet; because that, in being so precious a jewel, all the world would pursue me to deprive me of it; but now, seeing that it is so like a barber’s basin, they endeavour not to gain it, as was clearly showed in him that thought to break it the other day, and would not carry it with him, but left it lying behind him on the ground; for, in faith, he had never left it did he know the worthiness thereof. Keep it, friend; for I need it not at this present, wherein I must rather disarm myself of the arms I wear, and remain as naked as I was at the hour of my birth, if I shall take the humour rather to imitate Orlando in doing of my penance than Amadis.’

Whilst thus he discoursed, he arrived to the foot of a lofty mountain, which stood like a hewn rock divided from all the rest, by the skirt whereof glided a smooth river, hemmed in on every side by a green and flourishing meadow, whose verdure did marvelously delight the greedy beholding eye; there were in it also many wild trees, and some plants and flowers, which rendered the place much more pleasing. The Knight of the Ill-favoured Face made choice of this place to accomplish therein his penance; and therefore, as soon as he had viewed it, he began to say, with a loud voice, like a distracted man, these words ensuing: ‘This is the place where the humour of mine eyes shall increase the liquid veins of this crystal current, and my continual and deep sighs shall give perpetual motion to the leaves of these mountainy trees, in testimony of the pain which my oppressed heart doth suffer. O you, whosoever you be, rustical gods! which have your mansion in this inhabitable place, give ear to the plaints of this unfortunate lover, whom a long absence and a few imagined suspicions have conducted to deplore his state among these deserts, and make him exclaim on the rough condition of that ingrate and fair, who is the top, the sun, the period, term, and end of all human beauty. O ye Napeas and Dryads! which do wontedly inhabit the thickets and groves, so may the nimble and lascivious satyrs, by whom (although in vain) you are beloved, never have power to interrupt your sweet rest, as you shall assist me to lament my disasters, or at least attend them, whilst I dolefully breathe them. O Dulcinea of Toboso! the day of my night, the glory of my pain, north of my travels, and star of my fortunes; so Heaven enrich thee with the highest, whensoever thou shalt demand it, as thou wilt consider the place and pass unto which thine absence hath conducted me, and answer my faith and desires in compassionate and gracious manner. O solitary trees (which shall from henceforward keep company with my solitude), give tokens, with the soft motion of your boughs, that my presence doth not dislike you. O thou my squire, and grateful companion in all prosperous and adverse successes! bear well away what thou shalt see me do here, to the end that thou mayst after promptly recount it as the total cause of my ruin.’ And, saying so, he alighted from Rozinante, and, taking off in a trice his bridle and saddle, he struck him on the buttock, saying, ‘He gives thee liberty that wants it himself, O horse! as famous for thy works as thou art unfortunate by thy fates. Go where thou pleasest; for thou bearest written in thy forehead, how that neither the Hippogriff of Astolpho, nor the renowned Frontino, which cost Bradamante so dearly, could compare with thee for swiftness.’

When Sancho had viewed and heard his lord speak thus, he likewise said, ‘Good betide him that freed us from the pains of unpannelling the grey ass; for if he were here, in faith, he should also have two or three claps on the buttocks, and a short oration in his praise. Yet if he were here, I would not permit any other to unpannel him, seeing there was no occasion why; for he, good beast, was nothing subject to the passions of love or despair, no more than I, who was his master when it pleased God. And, in good sooth, sir Knight of the Ill-favoured Face, if my departure and your madness be in good earnest, it will be needful to saddle Rozinante again, that he may supply the want of mine ass; for it will shorten the time of my departure and return again. And if I make my voyage afoot, I know not when I shall arrive there, or return here back unto you; for, in good earnest, I am very ill footman.’

‘Let it be as thou likest,’ quoth Don Quixote; ‘for thy design displeaseth me nothing; and therefore I resolve that thou shalt depart from hence after three days; for in the mean space thou shalt behold what I will do and say for my lady’s sake, to the end thou mayst tell it to her.’ Why,’ quoth Sancho, ‘what more I can view than that which I have seen already?” ‘Thou art altogether wide of the matter,’ answered Don Quixote; ‘for I must yet tear mine apparel, throw away mine armour, and beat my head about these rocks, with many other things of that kind that will strike thee into admiration.’ ‘Let me beseech you,’ quoth Sancho, ‘see well how you give yourself those knocks about the rocks; for you might happen upon some one so ungracious a rock, as at the first rap would dissolve all the whole machina of your adventures and penance; and, therefore, I would be of opinion, seeing that you do hold it necessary that some knocks be given with the head, and that this enterprise cannot be accomplished without them, that you content yourself, seeing that all is but feigned, counterfeited, and a jest,—that you should, I say, content yourself with striking it on the water, or on some other soft thing, as cotton or wool, and leave to my charge the exaggeration thereof; for I will tell to my lady that you strike your head against the point of a rock which was harder than a diamond.’

‘I thank thee, Sancho, for thy good will,’ quoth Don Quixote; ‘but I can assure thee that all these things which I do are no jests, but very serious earnests; for otherwise we should transgress the statutes of chivalry, which command us not to avouch any untruth, on pain of relapse; and to do one thing for another is as much as to lie. So that my head-knocks must be true, firm, and sound ones, without any sophistical or fantastical shadow: and it will be requisite that you leave me some lint to cure me, seeing that fortune hath deprived us of the balsam which we lost.’ ‘It was worse to have lost the ass,’ quoth Sancho, ‘seeing that at once, with him, we have lost our lint and all our other provision; and I entreat you most earnestly not to name again that accursed drink; for in only hearing it mentioned, you not only turn my guts in me, but also my soul. And I request you, moreover, to make account that the terms of three days is already expired, wherein you would have me take notice of your follies; for I declare them already for seen, and will tell wonders to my lady: wherefore, go write your letter, and despatch me with all haste; for I long already to return, and take you out of this purgatory wherein I leave you.’

‘Dost thou call it a purgatory, Sancho?’ quoth Don Quixote. ‘Thou hadst done better hadst thou called it hell; or rather worse, if there be anything worse than that.’ ‘I call it so,’ quoth Sancho; ‘“Quia in inferno nulla est retentio,” as I have heard say.’

‘I understand not,’ said Don Quixote, ‘what retentio meaneth.’ ‘Retentio,’ quoth Sancho, ‘is that, whosoever is in hell, never comes, nor can come, out of it. Which shall fall out contrary in your person, or my feet shall go ill, if I may carry spurs to quicken Rozinante, and that I may safely arrive before my Lady Dulcinea in Toboso; for I will recount unto her such strange things of your follies and madness (for they be all one) that you have, and do daily, as I will make her as soft as a glove, although I found her at the first harder than a cork-tree; with whose sweet and honey answer I will return in the air as speedily as a witch, and take you out of this purgatory, which is no hell, although it seems one, seeing there is hope to escape from it; which, as I have said, they want which are in hell; and I believe you will not contradict me herein.’

‘Thou hast reason,’ answered the Knight of the Ill-favoured Face; ‘but how shall I write the letter? ‘And the warrant for the receipt of the colts also?’ added Sancho. ‘All shall be inserted together,’ quoth Don Quixote; ‘and seeing we have no paper, we may do well, imitating the ancient men of times past, to write our mind in the leaves of trees or wax; yet wax is as hard to be found here as paper. But, now that I remember myself, I know where we may write our mind well, and more than well, to wit, in Cardenio’s tablets, and thou shalt have care to cause the letters to be written out again fairly, in the first village wherein thou shalt find a schoolmaster; or, if such a one be wanting, by the clerk of the church; and beware in any sort that thou give it not to a notary or court-clerk to be copied, for they write such an entangling, confounded process letter, as Satan himself would scarce to be able to read it.’ ‘And how shall we do for want of your name and subscription?’ quoth Sancho. ‘Why,’ answered Don Quixote, ‘Amadis was never wont to subscribe to his letters.’ ‘Ay, but the warrant to receive the three asses must forcibly be subsigned; and if it should afterward be copied, they would say the former is false, and so I shall rest without my colts.’ ‘The warrant shall be written and affirmed with my hand in the tablets, which, as soon as my niece shall see, she shall make no difficulty to deliver thee them. And as concerning the love-letter, thou shalt put this subscription to it, “Yours until death, the Knight of the Ill-favoured Face.” And it makes no matter though it be written by any stranger; forasmuch as I can remember Dulcinea can neither write nor read, nor hath she seen any letter, no, not so much as a character of my writing all the days of her life; for my love and hers have been ever Platonical, never extending themselves further than to an honest regard and view the one of the other, and even this same so rarely, as I dare boldly swear, that in these dozen years which I love her more dearly than the light of these mine eyes, which the earth shall one day devour, I have not seen her four times, and perhaps of those same four times she hath scarce perceived once that I beheld her—such is the care and closeness wherewithal her parents, Lorenzo Corcuelo and her mother Aldonza Nogales, have brought her up.’ ‘Ta, ta,’ quoth Sancho, ‘that the Lady Dulcinea of Toboso is Lorenzo Corcuelo his daughter, called by another name Aldonza Lorenzo?’ ‘The same is she,’ quoth Don Quixote, ‘and it is she that merits to be empress of the vast universe.’ ‘I know her very well,’ replied Sancho, ‘and I dare say that she can throw an iron bar as well as any the strongest lad in our parish. I vow, by the giver, that ’tis a wench of the mark, tall and stout, and so sturdy withal, that she will bring her chin out of the mire, in despite of any knight-errant, or that shall err, that shall honour her as his lady. Out upon her! what a strength and voice she hath! I saw her on a day stand on the top of the church-steeple, to call certain servants of her father’s, that laboured in a fallow field; and although they were half a league from thence, they heard her as well as if they were at the foot of the steeple. And the best that is in her is that she is nothing coy; for she hath a very great smack of courtship, and plays with every one, and gibes and jests at them all. And now I affirm, sir Knight of the Ill-favoured Face, that not only you may and ought to commit raving follies for her sake, but eke you may, with just title, also despair and hang yourself; for none shall hear thereof but will say you did very well, although the devil carried you away. And fain would I be gone, if it were for nothing else but to see her; for it is many a day since I saw her, and I am sure she is changed by this; for women’s beauty is much impaired by going always to the field, exposed to the sun and weather. And I will now, sir Don Quixote, confess a truth unto you, that I have lived until now in a marvellous error, thinking well and faithfully that the Lady Dulcinea was some great princess, on whom you were enamoured, or such a person as merited those rich presents which you bestowed on her, as well of the Biscaine as of the slaves, and many others, that ought to be, as I suppose, correspondent to the many victories which you have gained, both now and in the time that I was not your squire. But, pondering well the matter, I cannot conceive why the Lady Aldonza Lorenzo—I mean the Lady Dulcinea of Toboso, of these should care whether these vanquished men which you send, or shall send, do go and kneel before her; for it may befall that she, at the very time of their arrival, be combing of flax or threshing in the barn, whereat they would be ashamed, and she likewise laugh, and be somewhat displeased at the present.’

‘I have oft told thee, Sancho, many times, that thou art too great a prattler,’ quoth Don Quixote, ‘and although thou hast but a gross wit, yet now and then thy frumps nip; but, to the end thou mayst perceive the faultiness of thy brain, and my discretion, I will tell thee a short history, which is this: There was once a widow, fair, young, free, rich, and withal very pleasant and jocund, that fell in love with a certain round and well-set servant of a college. His regent came to understand it, and therefore said on a day to the widow, by the way of fraternal correction, “Mistress, I do greatly marvel, and not without occasion, that a woman so principal, so beautiful, so rich, and specially so witty, could make so ill a choice, as to wax enamoured on so foul, so base, and foolish a man as such a one, we having in this house so many masters of art, graduates, and divines, amongst whom you might have made choice as among pears, saying, I will take this, and I will not have that.” But she answered him thus, with a very pleasant and good grace: “You are, sir, greatly deceived, if you deem that I have made an ill choice in such a one, let him seem never so great a fool; for, to the purpose that I mean to use him, he knows as much or rather more philosophy than Aristotle.” And so, Sancho, is likewise Dulcinea of Toboso as much worth as the highest princess of the world, for the effect I mean to use her. For all the poets which celebrate certain ladies at pleasure, thinkest thou that they all had mistresses? No. Dost thou believe that the Amaryllises, the Phyllises, Silvias, Dianas, Galateas, Alcidas, and others such like, wherewithal the books, ditties, barbers’ shops, and theatres are filled, were truly ladies of flesh and bones, and their mistresses which have and do celebrate them thus? No, certainly; but were for the greater part feigned, to serve as a subject of their verses, to the end the authors might be accounted amorous, and men of courage enough to be such. And thus it is also sufficient for me to believe and think that the good Aldonza Lorenzo is fair and honest. As for her parentage, it matters but little; for none will send to take information thereof, to give her an habit; and I make account of her as of the greatest princess in the world. For thou oughtest to know, Sancho, if thou knowest it not already, that two things alone incite men to love more than all things else, and those be, surpassing beauty and a good name. And both these things are found in Dulcinea in her prime; for none can equal her in fairness, and few come near her for a good report. And, for a final conclusion, I imagine that all that which I say is really so, without adding or taking aught away. And I do imagine her, in my fantasy, to be such as I could wish her as well in beauty as principality, and neither can Helen approach, nor Lucrece come near her; no, nor any of those other famous women, Greek, Barbarous, or Latin, of foregoing ages. And let every one say what he pleaseth; for though I should be reprehended for this by the ignorant, yet shall I not, therefore, be chastised by the more observant and rigorous sort of men.’

‘I avouch,’ quoth Sancho, ‘that you have great reason in all that you say, and that I am myself a very ass—but, alas! why do I name an ass with my mouth, seeing one should not mention, a rope in one’s house that was hanged? But give me the letter, and farewell; for I will change.’ With that, Don Quixote drew out his tablets, and, going aside, began to indite his letter with great gravity; which ended, he called Sancho to read it to him, to the end he might bear it away in memory, lest by chance he did lose the tablets on the way; for such were his cross fortunes, as made him fear every event. To which Sancho answered, saying, ‘Write it there twice or thrice in the book, and give me it after; for I will carry it safely, by God’s grace. For to think that I will be able ever to take it by rote is a great folly; for my memory is so short as I do many times forget mine own name. But yet, for all that, read it to me, good sir; for I would be glad to hear it, as a thing which I suppose to be as excellent as if it were cast in a mould.’ Hear it, then,’ said Don Quixote; ‘for thus it says:

  • ‘SOVEREIGN LADY,—The wounded by the point of absence, and the hurt by the darts of thy heart, sweetest Dulcinea of Toboso! doth send thee that health which he wanteth himself. If thy beauty disdain me, if thy valour turn not to my benefit, if thy disdains convert themselves to my harm, maugre all my patience, I shall be ill able to sustain this care; which, besides that it is violent, is also too durable. My good squire Sancho will give thee certain relation, O beautiful ingrate, and my dearest beloved enemy! of the state wherein I remain for thy sake. If thou please to favour me, I am thine; and if not, do what thou likest: for, by ending of my life, I shall both satisfy thy cruelty and my desires.—Thine until death,

‘By my father’s life, quoth Sancho, when he heard the letter, ‘it is the highest thing that ever I heard. Good God! how well do you say everything in it! and how excellently have you applied the subscription of “The Knight of the Ill-favoured Face!” I say again, in good earnest, that you are the devil himself, and there’s nothing but you know it.’ ‘All is necessary,’ answered Don Quixote, ‘for the office that I profess.’ ‘Put, then,’ quote Sancho, ‘in the other side of that leaf, the warrant of three colts, and firm it with a legible letter that they may know it at the first sight.’ ‘I am pleased,’ said Don Quixote. And so, writing it, he read it after to Sancho; and it said thus:

  • ‘You shall please, good niece, for this first of colts, to deliver unto my squire Sancho Panza, three of the five that I left at home, and are in your charge; the which three colts I command to be delivered to him, for as many others counted and received here; for with this, and his acquittance, they shall be justly delivered. Given in the bowels of Sierra Morena, the two-and-twentieth of August, of this present year——.’

‘It goes very well,’ quoth Sancho; ‘subsign it, therefore, I pray you.’ ‘It needs no seal,’ quoth Don Quixote, ‘but only my rubric, which is as valuable as if it were subscribed not only for three asses, but also for three hundred.’ ‘My trust is in you,’ answered Sancho; ‘permit me, for I will go saddle Rozinante, and prepare yourself to give me your blessing; for I purpose presently to depart, before I see any mad prank of yours; for I will say that I saw you play so many, as no more can be desired.’ ‘I will have thee stay, Sancho (and that because it is requisite), at least to see me stark naked; playing a dozen or two of raving tricks; for I will despatch them in less than half an hour; because that thou, having viewed them with thine own eyes, mayst safely swear all the rest that thou pleasest to add; and I assure thee that thou canst not tell so many as I mean to perform.’ ‘Let me entreat you, good sir, that I may not see you naked; for it will turn my stomach, and I shall not be able to keep myself from weeping; and my head is yet so sore since yesternight, through my lamentations for the loss of the grey beast, as I am not strong enough yet to endure new plaints. But, if your pleasure be such as I must necessarily see some follies, do them, in Jove’s name, in your clothes briefly, and such as are most necessary; chiefly, seeing none of these things are requisite for me. And, as I have said, we might excuse time (that shall now be lavished in these trifles) to return speedily with the news you desire and deserve so much. And if not, let the Lady Dulcinea provide herself well; for if she answer not according to reason, I make a solemn vow to him that I may, that I’ll make her disgorge out of her stomach a good answer, with very kicks and fists; for how can it be suffered that so famous a knight-errant as yourself should thus run out of his wits, without, nor for what, for one——Let not the gentlewoman constrain me to say the rest; for I will out with it, and venture all upon twelve, although it never were sold.’

‘In good faith, Sancho,’ quoth Don Quixote, “I think thou art grown as mad as myself,’ ‘I am not so mad,’ replied Sancho, ‘but I am more choleric. But, setting that aside, say, what will you eat until my return? Do you mean to do as Cardenio, and take by the highway’s side perforce from the shepherds?’ ‘Care thou not for that,’ replied Don Quixote; ‘for although I had it, yet would I not eat any other thing than the herbs and fruits that this field and trees do yield; for the perfection of mine affair consists in fasting, and the exercise of other castigations.’ To this Sancho replied: ‘Do you know what I fear? that I shall not find the way to you again here where I leave you, it is so difficult and obscure.’ ‘Take well the marks, and I will endeavour to keep here about,’ quoth Don Quixote, until thou come back again; and will, moreover, about the time of thy return, mount to the tops of these high rocks, to see whether thou appearest. But thou shouldst do best of all, to the end thou mayst not stay and miss me, to cut down here and there certain boughs, and strew them on the way as thou goest, until thou beest out in the plains, and those may after serve thee as bounds and marks, by which thou mayst again find me when thou returnest, in imitation of the clue of Theseus’ labyrinth.’

‘I will do so,’ quoth Sancho; and then, cutting down certain boughs, he demanded his lord’s blessing, and departed, not without tears on both sides. And, mounting upon Rozinante, whom Don Quixote commended very seriously to his care, that he should tend him as he would his own person, he made on towards the plains strewing here and there on the way his branches, as his master had advised him; and with that departed, although his lord importuned him to behold two or three follies ere he went away. But scarce had he gone a hundred paces, when he returned and said, ‘I say, sir, that you said well that, to the end I might swear with a safe conscience that I have seen you play these mad tricks, it were necessary that at least I see you do one, although that of your abode here is one great enough.’

‘Did not I tell thee so?’ quoth Don Quixote. ‘Stay Sancho, for I will do it in the space of a creed.’ And, taking off with all haste his hose, he remained the half of him naked, and did instantly give two or three jerks in the air, and two tumbles over and over on the ground, with his head downward, and his legs aloft, where he discovered such things, as Sancho, because he would not see them again, turned the bridle and rode away, resting contented and satisfied that he might swear that his lord was mad. And so we will leave him travelling on his way, until his return, which was very soon after.