Home  »  Don Quixote, Part 1  »  XVI. Wherein Is Recounted the History of the Lackey, with Other Strange Adventures Befallen in the Inn

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

The Fourth Book

XVI. Wherein Is Recounted the History of the Lackey, with Other Strange Adventures Befallen in the Inn

  • ‘I AM a mariner to love,
  • Which in his depths profound
  • Still sails, and yet no hope can prove
  • Of coming aye to th’ ground.
  • ‘I following go a glist’ring star,
  • Which I aloof descry,
  • Much more resplendent than those are
  • That Palinure did spy.
  • ‘I know not where my course to bend,
  • And so confusedly,
  • To see it only I pretend
  • Careful and carelessly.
  • ‘Her too impertinent regard,
  • And too much modesty,
  • The clouds are which mine eyes have barred
  • From their deserved fee.
  • ‘O clear and soul-reviving star!
  • Whose sight doth try my trust,
  • If thou thy light from me debar,
  • Instantly die I must.’
  • The singer arriving to this point of his song, Dorothea imagined that it would not be amiss to let Donna Clara hear so excellent a voice, and therefore she jogged her a little on the one and other side, until she had awaked her, and then said, ‘Pardon me, child, for thus interrupting your sweet repose, seeing I do it to the end you may joy, by hearing one of the best voices that perhaps you ever heard in your life.’ Clara awaked at the first drowsily, and did not well understand what Dorothea said, and therefore demanding of her what she said, she told it her again; whereupon Donna Clara was also attentive; but scarce had she heard two verses repeated by the early musician, when a marvellous trembling invaded her, even as if she had then suffered the grievous fit of a quartan ague. Wherefore, embracing Dorothea very straitly, she said, ‘Alas, dear lady! why did you awake me, seeing the greatest hap that fortune could in this instant have given me, was to have mine eyes and ears so shut as I might neither see nor hear that unfortunate musician.’ ‘What is that you say, child?’ quoth Dorothea. ‘Did you not hear one say that the musician is but a horse-boy?’ ‘He is no horse-boy,’ quoth Clara, ‘but a lord of many towns, and he that hath such firm possession of my soul, as if he himself will not reject it, he shall never be deprived of the dominion thereof.’ Dorothea greatly wondered at the passionate words of the young girl, whereby it seemed to her that she far surpassed the discretion which so tender years did promise, and therefore she replied to her, saying, ‘You speak so obscurely, Lady Clara, as I cannot understand you; expound yourself more clearly, and tell me what is that you say of souls and towns, and of this musician whose voice hath altered you so much. But do not say anything to me now, for I would not lose, by listening to your disgusts, the pleasure I take to hear him sing; for me thinks he resumes his music with new verses, and in another tune.’ ‘In a good hour,’ quoth Donna Clara; and then, because she herself would not hear him, she stopped her ears with her fingers; whereat Dorothea did also marvel, but being attentive to the music, she heard the lackey prosecute his song in this manner:

  • ‘O sweet and constant hope,
  • That break’st impossibilities and briers,
  • And firmly runn’st the scope
  • Which thou thyself dost forge to thy desires!
  • Be not dismay’d to see
  • At ev’ry step thyself nigh death to be.
  • ‘Sluggards do not deserve
  • The glory of triumphs or victory;
  • Good hap doth never serve
  • Those which resist not fortune manfully,
  • But weakly fall to ground,
  • And in soft sloth their senses all confound.
  • ‘That love his glories hold
  • At a high rate, it reason is and just;
  • No precious stones nor gold
  • May be at all compared with love’s gust;
  • And ’tis a thing most clear,
  • Nothing is worth esteem that cost not dear.
  • ‘An amorous persistence
  • Obtaineth ofttimes things impossible;
  • And so though I resistance
  • Find of my soul’s desires, in her stern will,
  • I hope time shall be given,
  • When I from earth may reach her glorious heaven.’
  • Here the voice ended, and Donna Clara’s sighs began; all which inflamed Dorothea’s desire to know the cause of so sweet a song and so sad a plaint; and therefore she eftsoons required her to tell her now what she was about to have said before. Then Clara, timorous lest Lucinda should overhear her, embracing Dorothea very nearly, laid her mouth so closely to Dorothea’s ear, as she might speak securely without being understood by any other, and said, ‘He that sings is, dear lady, a gentleman’s son of the kingdom of Aragon, whose father is lord of two towns, and dwelled right before my father’s house at the court; and although the windows of our house were in winter covered with cere-cloth, and in summer with lattice, I know not how it happened, but this gentleman, who went to the school, espied me; and whether it was at the church, or elsewhere, I am not certain. Finally, he fell in love with me, and did acquaint me with his affection from his own windows, that were opposite to mine, with so many tokens and such abundance of tears, as I most forcibly believed, and also affected him, without knowing how much he loved me. Among the signs that he would make me, one was, to join the one hand to the other, giving me thereby to understand that he would marry me; and although I would be very glad that it might be so, yet as one alone, and without a mother, I knew not to whom I might communicate the affair, and did therefore let it rest without affording him any other favour, unless it were, when my father and his were gone abroad, by lifting up the lattice or cere-cloth only a little, and permitting him to behold me; for which favour he would show such signs of joy as a man would deem him to be reft of his wits.

    ‘The time of my father’s departure arriving, and he hearing of it, but not from me (for I could never tell it to him), he fell sick, as far as I could understand, for grief; and therefore I could never see him all the day of our departure, to bid him farewell at least with mine eyes; but after we had travelled two days, just as we entered into an inn in a village, a day’s journey from hence, I saw him at the lodging door, apparelled so properly like a lackey, as if I had not borne about me his portraiture in my soul, it had been impossible to know him. I knew him, and wondered, and was glad withal; and he beheld me, unwitting my father, from whose presence he still hides himself when he crosses the ways before me as I travel, or after we arrive at any inn. And because that I know what he is, and do consider the pains he takes by coming thus afoot for my sake, and that with so great toil, I die for sorrow; and where he puts his feet, I also put mine eyes. I know not with what intention he comes, nor how he could possibly thus escape from his father, who loves him beyond measure, both because he hath none other heir, and because the young gentleman also deserves it, as you will perceive when you see him; and I dare affirm besides, that all that which he says he composes extempore, and without any study; for I have heard that he is a fine student, and a great poet; and every time that I see him, or do hear him sing, I start and tremble like an aspen leaf, for fear that my father should know him, and thereby come to have notice of our mutual affections. I have never spoken one word to him in my life, and yet I do nevertheless love him so much, as without him I shall not be able to live. And this is all, dear lady, that I am able to say unto you of the musician whose voice hath pleased you so well, as by it alone you might conjecture that he is not a horse-boy, as you said, but rather a lord of souls and towns, as I affirmed.’

    ‘Speak no more, Lady Clara,’ quoth Dorothea at that season, kissing her a thousand times; ‘speak no more, I say, but have patience until it be daylight; for I hope in God so to direct your affairs, as that they shall have the fortunate success that so honest beginning deserves.’ ‘Alas, madam!’ quoth Donna Clara, ‘what end may be expected, seeing his father is so noble and rich, as he would scarce deem me worthy to be his son’s servant, how much less his spouse? And for me to marry myself unknown to my father, I would not do it for all the world. I desire no other thing but that the young gentleman would return home again and leave me alone; perhaps by not seeing him, and the great distance of the way which we are to travel, my pain, which now so much presseth me, will be somewhat allayed; although I daresay that this remedy, which now I have imagined, would avail me but little; for I know not whence with the vengeance, or by what way this affection which I bear him got into me, seeing both I and he are so young as we be, for I believe we are much of an age, and I am not yet full sixteen, nor shall be, as my father says, until Michaelmas next.’ Dorothea could not contain her laughter, hearing how childishly Donna Clara spoke; to whom she said, ‘Lady, let us repose again, and sleep that little part of the night which remains; and when God sends daylight, we will prosper, or my hands shall fail me.’ With this they held their peace, and all the inn was drowned in profound silence; only the innkeeper’s daughter and Maritornes were not asleep, but knowing very well Don Quixote’s peccant humour, and that he was armed and on horseback without the inn keeping guard, both of them consorted together, and agreed to be someway merry with him, or at least to pass over some time in hearing him speak ravingly.

    It is therefore to be understood that there was not in all the inn any window which looked out into the field, but one hole in a barn, out of which they were wont to cast their straw. To this hole came the two demi-damsels, and saw Don Quixote mounted and leaning on his javelin, and breathing forth ever and anon so doleful and deep sighs, as it seemed his soul was plucked away by every one of them; and they noted besides how he said, with a soft and amorous voice, ‘O my lady Dulcinea of Toboso! the sun of all beauty, the end and quintessence of discretion, the treasury of sweet countenance and carriage, the storehouse of honesty, and finally, the idea of all that which is profitable, modest, or delightful in the world! and what might thy ladyship be doing at this present? Hast thou perhaps thy mind now upon thy captive knight, that most wittingly exposeth himself to so many dangers for thy sake? Give unto me tidings of her, O thou luminary of the three faces! Peradventure thou dost now with envy enough behold her, either walking through some gallery of her sumptuous palaces, or leaning on some bay-window, and thinking how (saving her honour and greatness) she shall mitigate and assuage the torture which this mine oppressed heart endures for her love, what glory she shall give for my pains, what quiet to my cares, what life to my death, and what guerdon to my services. And thou, sun, which art, as I believe, by this time saddling of thy horses to get away early and go out to see my mistress, I request thee, as soon as thou shalt see her, so salute her in my behalf; but beware that when thou lookest on her and dost greet her, that thou do not kiss her on the face; for if thou dost, I become more jealous of thee than ever thou wast of the swift ingrate which made thee to run and sweat so much through the plains of Thessaly or the brinks of Peneus; for I have forgotten through which of them thou rannest so jealous and enamoured.’

    To this point arrived Don Quixote, when the innkeeper’s daughter began to call him softly unto her, and say, ‘Sir knight, approach a little hitherward, if you please’; at which voice Don Quixote turned his head, and saw by the light of the moon which shined then very clearly, that he was called to from the hole, which he accounted to be a fair window full of iron bars, and those costly gilded with gold, well befitting so rich a castle as he imagined that inn to be; and presently in a moment he forged to his own fancy, that once again, as [s]he had done before, the beautiful damsel, daughter to the lady of that castle, overcome by his love, did return to solicit him; and with this thought, because he would not show himself discourteous and ungrateful, he turned Rozinante about and came over to the hole; and then, having beheld the two wenches, he said, ‘I take pity on you, beautiful lady, that you have placed your amorous thoughts in a place whence it is not possible to have any correspondence answerable to the desert of your high worth and beauty, whereof you are in no sort to condemn this miserable knight-errant, whom love hath wholly disabled to surrender his will to be any other than to her whom at the first sight he made absolute mistress of his soul. Pardon me therefore, good lady, and retire yourself to your chamber, and make me not, by any further insinuation of your desires, more unthankful and discourteous than I would be; and if, through the love that you bear me, you find in me any other thing wherewithal I may serve and pleasure you, so that it be not love itself, demand it boldly; for I do swear unto you by mine absen[t], yet sweetest enemy, to bestow it upon you incontinently, yea, though it be a lock of Medusa’s hairs, which are all of snakes, or the very sunbeams enclosed in a vial of glass.’

    ‘My lady needs none of those things, sir knight,’ answered Maritornes. ‘What doth she then want, discreet matron?’ quoth Don Quixote. ‘Only one of your fair hands,’ said Maritornes, ‘that therewithal she may disburden herself of some part of those violent desires which compelled her to come to this window, with so great danger of her honour; for if her lord and father knew of her coming, the least slice he would take off her should be at the least an ear.’ ‘I would fain once see that,’ quoth Don Quixote; ‘but I am sure he will beware how he do it, if he have no list to make the most disastrous end that ever father made in this world, for having laid violent hands on the delicate limbs of his amorous daughter.’ Maritornes verily persuaded herself that Don Quixote would give up his hand as he was requested, and having already contrived in her mind what she would do, descended with all haste from the hole, and, going into the stable, fetched out Sancho Panza his ass’ halter, and returned again with very great speed, just as Don Quixote (standing up on Rozinante’s saddle, that he might the better reach the barred windows, whereat he imagined the wounded damsel remained) did, stretching up his hand, say unto her, ‘Hold, lady, the hand, or as I may better say, the executioner of earthly miscreants; hold, I say, that hand, which no other woman ever touched before, not even she herself that hath entire possession of my whole body, nor do I give it to you to the end you should kiss it, but that you may behold the contexture of the sinews, the knitting of the muscles, and the spaciosity and breadth of the veins, whereby you may collect how great ought the force of that arm to be whereunto such a hand is knit.’ ‘We shall see that presently,’ quoth Maritornes; and then, making a running knot on the halter, she cast it on the wrist of his hand, and then descending from the hole, she tied the other end of the halter very fast to the lock of the barn door. Don Quixote, feeling the roughness of the halter about his wrist, said, ‘It rather seems that you grate my hand than that you cherish it; but yet I pray you not to handle it so roughly, seeing it is no fault of the evil which my will doth unto you; nor is it comely that you should revenge or disburden the whole bulk of your indignation on so small a part: remember that those which love well do not take so cruel revenge.’ But nobody gave ear to these words of Don Quixote’s; for as soon as Maritornes had tied him, she and the other, almost burst for laughter, ran away, and left him tied in such manner as it was impossible for him to loose himself.

    He stood, as we have recounted, on Rozinante his saddle, having all his arm thrust in at the hole, and fastened by the wrist to the lock, and was in very doubt and fear that if Rozinante budged never so little on any side he should fall and hang by the arm; and therefore he durst not once use the least motion of the world, although he might well have expected, from Rozinante’s patience and mild spirit, that if he were suffered, he would stand still a whole age without stirring himself. In fine, Don Quixote seeing himself tied, and that the ladies were departed, began straight to imagine that all had been done by way of enchantment, as the last time, when in the very same castle the enchanted Moor (the carrier) had so fairly belaboured him; and then to himself did he execrate his own want of discretion and discourse, seeing that having escaped out of that castle so evil dight the first time, he would after adventure to enter into it the second; for it was generally observed by knights-errant that when they had once tried an adventure, and could not finish it, it was a token that it was not reserved for them, but for some other; and therefore would never prove it again. Yet for all this he drew forward his arm to see if he might deliver himself; but he was so well bound as all his endeavours proved vain. It is true that he drew it very warily, lest Rozinante should stir: and although he would fain have sat and settled himself in the saddle, yet could he do no other but stand, or leave the arm behind. There was many a wish for Amadis his sword, against which no enchantment whatsoever could prevail; there succeeded the malediction of his fates; there the exaggerating of the want that the world should have of his presence all the while he abode enchanted (as he infallibly believed he was) in that place; there he anew remembered his beloved Lady Dulcinea of Toboso; there did he call oft enough on his good squire Sancho Panza, who, entombed in the bowels of sleep, and stretched along on the pannel of his ass, did dream at that instant but little of the mother that bore him; there he invoked the wise men Lirgandeo and Alquife to help him. And finally, the morning did also there overtake him so full of despair and confusion, as he roared like a bull; for he had no hope that by daylight any cure could be found for his care, which he deemed would be everlasting, because he fully accounted himself enchanted; and was the more induced to think so, because he saw that Rozinante did not move little nor much; and therefore he supposed that both he and his horse should abide in that state without eating, drinking, or sleeping, until that either the malignant influence of the stars were past, or some greater enchanter had disenchanted him.

    But he deceived himself much in his belief; for scarce did the day begin to peep, when there arrived four horsemen to the inn-door, very well appointed, and having snap-hances hanging at the pommel of their saddles. They called at the inn-door (which yet stood shut), and knocked very hard, which being perceived by Don Quixote, from the place where he stood sentinel, he said, with a very loud and arrogant voice, ‘Knights, or squires, or whatsoever else ye be, you are not to knock any more at the gates of that case, seeing it is evident, that at such hours as this, either they which are within do repose them, or else are not wont to open fortresses until Phoebus hath spread his beams over the earth; therefore stand back, and expect till it be clear day, and then we will see whether it be just or no that they open their gates unto you.’ ‘What a devil, what castle or fortress is this,’ quoth one of them, ‘that it should bind us to use all those circumstances? If thou beest the innkeeper, command that the door be opened; for we are travellers that will tarry no longer than to bait our horses and away, for we ride in post haste.’ ‘Doth it seem to you, gentlemen,’ quoth don Quixote, ‘that I look like an innkeeper?’ ‘I know not what thou lookest like,’ answered the other, ‘but well I know that thou speakest madly, in calling this inn a castle.’ ‘It is a castle,’ replied Don Quixote, ‘yea, and that one of the best in this province, and it hath people within it which have had a sceptre in hand, and a crown on their head.’ ‘It were better said quite contrary,’ replied the traveller, ‘the sceptre on the head, and the crown in the hand; but perhaps (and so it may well be) there is some company of players within, who do very usually hold the sceptres and wear those crowns whereof thou talkest; for in such a paltry inn as this is, and where I hear so little noise, I cannot believe any one to be lodged worthy to wear a crown or bear a sceptre.’ ‘Thou knowest but little of the world,’ replied Don Quixote, ‘seeing thou dost so much ignore the chances that are wont to befall in chivalry.’ The fellows of him that entertained this prolix dialogue with Don Quixote waxed weary to hear them speak idly so long together, and therefore turned again to knock with great fury at the door, and that in such sort as they not only waked the innkeeper, but also all the guests, and so he arose to demand their pleasure.

    In the meanwhile it happened that one of the horses whereon they rode drew near to smell Rozinante, that, melancholy and sadly, with his ears cast down, did sustain without moving his outstreched lord; and he being indeed of flesh and blood, although he resembled a block of wood, could not choose but feel it, and turn to smell him again who had thus come to cherish and entertain him; and scarce had he stirred but a thought from thence, when Don Quixote’s feet, that were joined, slipt asunder, and, tumbling from the saddle, had doubtlessly fallen to the ground, had he not remained hanging by the arm; a thing that caused him to endure so much pain, as he verily believed that either his wrist was a-cutting, or his arm a-tearing off from his body; and he hung so near to the ground as he touched it with the tops of his toes, all which turned to his prejudice; for, having felt the little which he wanted to the setting of his feet wholly on the earth, he laboured and drew all that he might to reach it; much like unto those that get the strappado, with the condition to touch or not to touch, who are themselves a cause to increase their own torture, by the earnestness wherewith they stretch themselves, deceived by the hope they have to touch the ground if they can stretch themselves but a little farther.