Home  »  Don Quixote, Part 1  »  XVIII. Wherein Are Decided the Controversies of the Helmet of Mambrino and of the Pannel, with Other Strange and Most True Adventures

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

The Fourth Book

XVIII. Wherein Are Decided the Controversies of the Helmet of Mambrino and of the Pannel, with Other Strange and Most True Adventures

‘GOOD sirs,’ quoth the barber, ‘what do you think of that which is affirmed by these gentlemen, who yet contend that this is not a basin, but a helmet?’ “He that denies it,’ quoth Don Quixote, ‘I will make him know that he lies, if he be a knight; and if he be but a squire, that he lies and lies again a thousand times.’ Our barber, who was also present, as one that knew Don Quixote’s humour very well, would fortify his folly and make the jest pass yet a little further, to the end that they all might laugh; and therefore, speaking to the other barber, he said, ‘Sir barber, or what else you please, know that I am also of your occupation, and have had my writ of examination and approbation in that trade more than these thirty years, and am one that knows very well all the instruments of barbery whatsoever; and have been besides, in my youthful days, a soldier; and do therefore likewise know what is a helmet, and what a morion, and what a close castle, and other things touching warfare-I mean all the kind of arms that a soldier ought to have; and therefore I say (still submitting myself to the better opinion) that this piece which is laid here before us, and which this good knight holds in his hand, not only is not a barber’s basin, but also is so far from being one as is white from black, or verity from untruth; yet do I withal affirm that although it is an helmet, yet it is not a complete helmet.’ ‘No, truly,’ quoth Don Quixote, ‘for it wants the half, to wit, the nether part and the beaver.’ ‘It is very true,’ quoth the curate, who very well understood his friend the barber his intention; and the same did Cardenio, Don Fernando, and the rest of his fellows confirm; yea, and even the judge himself, had not Don Louis his affair perplexed his thoughts, would, for his part, have holpen the jest well forward; but the earnestness of that affair held his mind so busied, as he little or nothing attended the pastime. ‘Lord have mercy upon me!” quoth the other barber, then half beside himself; ‘and is it possible that so many honourable men should say that this is no basin, but a helmet? This is a thing able to strike admiration into a whole university, how discreet soever it were. It is enough; if this basin must needs be a helmet, the pannel must also be a horse’s furniture, as this gentleman says,’ ‘To me it seems a pannel,’ quoth Don Quixote; ‘but, as I have said, I will not meddle with it, nor determine whether it be a pannel or the caparison of a horse.’

‘Therein is nothing else to be done,’ said the curate, ‘but that Sir Don Quixote say at once; for in these matters of chivalry, all these noblemen and myself do give unto him the prick and the prize.’ ‘I swear unto you by Jove, good sirs,’ quoth Don Quixote, ‘that so many and so strange are the things which have befallen me in this castle, these two times that I have lodged therein, as I dare avouch nothing affirmatively of anything that shall be demanded of me concerning the things contained in it; for I do infallibly imagine that all the adventures which pass in it are guided by enchantment. The first time, I was very much vexed by an enchanted Moor that was in it, and Sancho himself sped not very well with the Moors’ followers and yesternight I stood hanging almost two hours’ space by this arm, without knowing how, or how that disgrace befel me; so that for me to meddle now in so confused and difficult a matter, as to deliver mine opinion, were to pass a rash judgment. So that they which say that this is a basin and no helmet, I have already made answer; but whether this be a pannel or furniture, I dare pronounce no definitive sentence, but only remit it to your discreet opinions: perhaps because you are not dubbed knights as I am, the enchantments of this place will have no power over you, and your understanding shall be freed and able to judge of the things in this castle really and truly, and not as they seem unto me.’ ‘Doubtless,’ quoth Don Fernando, ‘Don Quixote says very well that the definition of this case belongs unto us; and therefore, and because we may proceed in it upon the better and more solid grounds, I will secretly take the suffrages of all those gentlemen, and afterwards make a clear and full relation of what shall come of them.’

To those that knew Don Quixote his humour, this was a matter of marvellous laughter and sport; but to such as were not acquainted therewithal, it seemed the greatest folly of the world, especially to Don Louis and his four servants, and with other three passengers that had arrived by chance to the inn, and seemed to be troopers of the holy brotherhood, as indeed they were. But he that was most of all beside himself for wrath was the barber whose basin they had transformed before his own face into the helmet of Mambrino, and whose pannel he made full account should likewise be turned into the rich furniture and equipage of a great horse. All of them laughed heartily to see Don Fernando go up and down, taking the suffrages of this man and that, and rounding every one of them in the ear, that they might declare in secret whether that was a pannel or a furniture for which such deadly contention had passed. After that he had taken the suffrages of so many as knew Don Quixote, he said very loudly, ‘The truth is, good fellow, that I grow weary of demanding so many opinions; for I can no sooner demand of any man what I desire to know, but they forthwith answer me, how it is mere madness to affirm that this is the pannel of an ass, but rather the furniture of a horse, yea, and of a chief horse of service; and therefore you must have patience; for in despite both of you and of your ass, and notwithstanding your weak allegations and worse proofs, it is, and will continue, the furniture of a great horse.’ ‘Let me never enjoy a place in heaven,’ quoth the barber, ‘if you all be not deceived; and so may my soul appear before God, as it appears to me to be a pannel, and no horse furniture. But the law carries it away, and so farewell it. And yet surely I am not drunk; for unless it be by sinning, my fast hath not been broken this day.’

The follies which the barber uttered stirred no less laughter among them than did the roarings of Don Quixote, who then spoke in this manner: ‘Here is now no more to be done, but that every man take up his own goods, and to whom God hath given them, let St. Peter give his blessing.’ Then said one of the four serving-men, ‘If this were not a jest premeditated, and made of purpose, I could not persuade myself that men of so good understanding as all these are, or seem to be, should dare to say and affirm that this is not a basin, nor that a pannel; but seeing that they aver it so constantly, I have cause to suspect that it cannot be without mystery, to affirm a thing so contrary to that which very truth itself, and experience, demonstrates unto us; for I do vow’ (and, saying so, he rapped out a round oath or two) ‘that as many as are in the world should never make me believe that this is no basin, nor that no pannel of he-ass.’ ‘It might as well be of a she-ass,’ quoth the curate. ‘That comes all but to one,’ replied the other; ‘for the question consists not therein, but whether it be a pannel or not, as you do avouch.’ Then one of the troopers of the Holy Brotherhood, who had listened to their disputation, and was grown full of choler to hear such an error maintained, said, ‘It is as very a pannel, as my father is my father; and he that hath said, or shall say the contrary, is, I believe, turned into a grape.’ ‘Thou liest like a clownish knave!’ quoth Don Quixote; and, lifting up his javelin, which he always held in his hand, he discharged such a blow at the trooper’s pate, as if he had not avoided, it would have thrown him to the ground. The javelin was broken by the force of the fall into splinters; and the other troopers, seeing their fellow misused, cried out for help and assistance for that Holy Brotherhood. The innkeeper, who also was one of the same fraternity, ran in for his rod of justice and his sword, and then stood by his fellows. Don Louis’ four servants compassed him about, lest he should attempt to escape whilst the tumult endured. The barber, seeing all the house turned upside down, laid hand again upon his pannel, and the same did Sancho.

Don Quixote set hand to his sword, and assaulted the troopers. Don Louis cried to his serving-men that they should leave him, and go to help Don Quixote, Cardenio, and Don Fernando; for all of them took Don Quixote’s part. The curate cried out, the hostess shrieked, her daughter squeaked, Maritornes howled, Dorothea stood confused, Lucinda amazed, and Donna Clara dismayed; the barber battered Sancho, and Sancho pounded him again. Don Louis, on whom one of his serving-men had presumed to lay hands, and hold him by the arm, gave him such a pash on the mouth as he broke his teeth, and then the judge took him into his own protection. Don Fernando had gotten one of the troopers under his feet, where he stood belabouring him at pleasure. The innkeeper renewed his outcry, and reinforced his voice, demanding aid for the Holy Brotherhood. So that all the inn seemed nothing else but plaints, cries, screeches, confusions, fears, dreads, disgraces, slashes, buffets, blows, spurnings, and effusion of blood.

In the midst of the chaos and labyrinth of things, Don Quixote began to imagine and fancy to himself that he was at that very time plunged up to the ears in the discord and conflict of King Agramante his camp; and therefore he said, with a voice that made all the inn to tremble, ‘All of you, hold your hands; all of you, put up your swords; all of you, be quiet and listen to me, if any of you desire to continue alive.’ That great and monstrous voice made them all stand still; thereupon he thus proceeded: ‘Did not I tell you, sirs, that this castle was enchanted, and that some legion of devils did inhabit it? In confirmation whereof, I would have you but to note with your own eyes how the very discord of King Agramante’s camp is transferred hither, and passed over among us. Look how there they fight for the sword, here for the horse, yonder for the eagle, beyond for the helmet; and all of us fight, and none of us know for what. Come therefore, you Master Justice, and you master curate, and let the one represent King Agramante, and the other King Sobrino, and make peace and atonement among us; for I swear by almighty Jove, that it is great wrong and pity that so many noblemen as we are here should be slain for so slight causes.’

The troopers, which did not understand Don Quixote’s manner of speech, and saw themselves very ill-handled by Don Fernando and Cardenio, would in no wise be pacified. But the barber was content, by reason that in the conflict both his beard and his pannel had been torn in pieces. Sancho to his master’s voice was quickly obedient, as became a dutiful servant. Don Louis his four serving-men stood also quiet, seeing how little was gained in being other; only the innkeeper persisted as before, affirming that punishment was due unto the insolences of that madman, who every foot confounded and disquieted his inn. Finally, the rumour was pacified for that time; the pannel remained for a horse furniture until the day of judgment, the basin for a helmet, and the inn for a castle—in Don Quixote’s imagination.

All the broils being now appeased, and all men accorded by the judge’s and curate’s persuasions, then began Don Louis his servants again to urge him to depart with them, and whilst he and they debated the matter, the judge communicated the whole to Don Fernando, Cardenio, and the curate, desiring to know their opinions concerning that affair, and telling them all that Don Louis had said to him; whereupon they agreed that Don Fernando should tell the serving-men what he himself was, and how it was his pleasure that Don Louis should go with him to Andalusia, where he should be cherished and accounted of by the marquis his brother, according unto his calling and deserts; for he knew well Don Louis his resolution to be such, as he would not return into his father’s presence at that time, although they tore him into pieces. Don Fernando his quality and Don Louis his intention being understood by the four, they agreed among themselves that three of them should go back to bear the tidings of all that had passed to his father, and the other should abide there to attend on him, and never to leave him until they returned to fetch him home, or knew what else his father would command: and in this sort was that monstrous bulk of division and contention reduced to some form by the authority of Agramante and the wisdom of King Sobrino.

But the enemy of concord and the adversary of peace finding his projects to be thus illuded and condemned, and seeing the little fruit he had gotten by setting them all by the ears, resolved once again to try his wits, and stir up new discords and troubles, which befel in this manner. The troopers were quieted, having understood the calling of those with whom they had contended, and retired themselves from the brawl, knowing that howsoever the cause succeeded, they themselves should have still the worst end of the staff. But one of them, who was the very same whom Don Fernando had buffeted so well, remembered how among many other warrants that he had to apprehend malefactors, he had one for Don Quixote, whom the Holy Brotherhood had commanded to be apprehended for freeing of the galley slaves (a disaster which Sancho had beforehand with very great reason feared). As soon as he remembered it, he would needs try whether the signs that were given him of Don Quixote did agree with his person; and so, taking out of his bosom a scroll of parchment wherein they were written, he presently found out that which he looked for; and, reading it a while very leisurely, as one that was himself no great clerk, at every other word he looked on Don Quixote, and confronted the marks of his warrant with those of Don Quixote’s face, and found that he was infallibly the man that was therein mentioned. And scarce was he persuaded that it was he, when, folding up his parchment, and holding the warrant in his left hand, he laid hold on Don Quixote’s collar with the right, so strongly as he could hardly breathe, and cried out aloud, saying, ‘Aid for the Holy Brotherhood! and that you may perceive how I am in good earnest, read that warrant, wherein you shall find that this robber by the highway side is to be apprehended.’ The curate took the warrant, and perceived very well that the trooper said true, and that the marks agreed very near with Don Quixote’s; who, seeing himself so abused by that base rascal, as he accounted him, his choler being mounted to her height, and all the bones of his body crashing for wrath, he seized as well as he could with both his hands on the trooper’s throat, and that in such sort as if he had not been speedily succoured by his fellows, he had there left his life ere Don Quixote would have abandoned his grip.

The innkeeper, who of force was to assist his fellow in office, forthwith repaired unto his aid. The hostess, seeing her husband re-enter into contentions and brabbles, raised a new cry, whose burden was borne by her daughter and Maritornes, asking succour of Heaven and those that were present. Sancho, seeing all that passed, said, ‘By the Lord, all that my master hath said of the enchantments of this castle is true; for it is not possible for a man to live quietly in it one hour together.’

Don Fernando parted the trooper and Don Quixote, and with the goodwill of both, unfastened their holds. But yet the troopers for all this desisted not to require their prisoner, and withal, that they should help to get him tied and absolutely rendered unto their wills; for so it was requisite for the King and the Holy Brotherhood, in whose name they did again demand their help and assistance for the arresting of that public robber and spoiler of people in common paths and highways.

Don Quixote laughed to hear them speak so idly, as he imagined, and said, with very great gravity, ‘Come hither, you filthy, base extractions of the dunghill! dare you term the loosening of the enchained, the freeing of prisoners, the assisting of the wretched, the raising of such as are fallen, and the supplying of those that are in want,—dare you, I say, term these things robbing on the highway? O infamous brood! worthy, for your base and vile conceit, that Heaven should never communicate with you the valour included in the exercise of chivalry, we give you to understand the sin and error wherein you are, by not adoring the very shadow, how much more the assistance of a knight-errant? Come hither, O you that be no troopers, but thieves in troop, and robbers of highways of permission of the Holy Brotherhood! come hither, I say, and tell me, who was that jolt-head that did subscribe or ratify a warrant for the attaching of such a knight as I am? Who was he that knows not how knights-errant are exempted from all tribunals? and how that their sword is the law, their valour the bench, and their wills the statutes of their courts? I say again, what madman was he that knows not how that no privilege of gentry enjoys so many pre-eminences, immunities, and exemptions as that which a knight-errant acquires the day wherein he is dubbed and undertakes the rigorous exercise of arms? What knight-errant did ever pay tribute, subsidy, tallage, carriage, or passage over water? What tailor ever had money for making his clothes? What constable ever lodged him in castle, that made him after to pay for the shot? What king hath not placed him at his own table? What damsel hath not fallen in love with him, and permitted him to use her as he liked? And finally, what knight-errant was there ever, is, or ever shall be in the world, which hath not the courage himself alone to give four hundred blows with a cudgel to four hundred troopers that shall presume to stand before him in hostile manner?