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Don Quixote Part 2 Chap 1
CHAPTER I (of Don Quixote's 2nd part)
Of the interview the curate and the barber had with Don Quixote
about his malady

Cide Hamete Benengeli, in the Second Part of this history, and third
sally of Don Quixote, says that the curate and the barber remained
nearly a month without seeing him, lest they should recall or bring
back to his recollection what had taken place. They did not, however,
omit to visit his niece and housekeeper, and charge them to
be careful to treat him with attention, and give him comforting
things to eat, and such as were good for the heart and the brain,
whence, it was plain to see, all his misfortune proceeded. The
niece and housekeeper replied that they did so, and meant to do so
with all possible care and assiduity, for they could perceive that
their master was now and then beginning to show signs of being in
his right mind. This gave great satisfaction to the curate and the
barber, for they concluded they had taken the right course in carrying
him off enchanted on the ox-cart, as has been described in the
First Part of this great as well as accurate history, in the last chapter
thereof. So they resolved to pay him a visit and test the improvement
in his condition, although they thought it almost impossible
that there could be any; and they agreed not to touch upon any
point connected with knight-errantry so as not to run the risk of
reopening wounds which were still so tender.
They came to see him consequently, and found him sitting up in
bed in a green baize waistcoat and a red Toledo cap, and so withered
and dried up that he looked as if he had been turned into a mummy.
They were very cordially received by him; they asked him after his
health, and he talked to them about himself very naturally and in very
well-chosen language. In the course of their conversation they fell to
discussing what they call State-craft and systems of government, correcting
this abuse and condemning that, reforming one practice and
abolishing another, each of the three setting up for a new legislator, a
modern Lycurgus, or a brand-new Solon; and so completely did they
remodel the State, that they seemed to have thrust it into a furnace
and taken out something quite different from what they had put in;
and on all the subjects they dealt with, Don Quixote spoke with such
good sense that the pair of examiners were fully convinced that he
was quite recovered and in his full senses.
The niece and housekeeper were present at the conversation and
could not find words enough to express their thanks to God at
seeing their master so clear in his mind; the curate, however, changing
his original plan, which was to avoid touching upon matters of
chivalry, resolved to test Don Quixote’s recovery thoroughly, and
see whether it were genuine or not; and so, from one subject to
another, he came at last to talk of the news that had come from the
capital, and, among other things, he said it was considered certain
that the Turk was coming down with a powerful fleet, and that no
one knew what his purpose was, or when the great storm would
burst; and that all Christendom was in apprehension of this, which
almost every year calls us to arms, and that his Majesty had made
provision for the security of the coasts of Naples and Sicily and the
island of Malta.
To this Don Quixote replied, “His Majesty has acted like a prudent
warrior in providing for the safety of his realms in time, so
that the enemy may not find him unprepared; but if my advice were
taken I would recommend him to adopt a measure which at present,
no doubt, his Majesty is very far from thinking of.”
The moment the curate heard this he said to himself, “God keep
thee in his hand, poor Don Quixote, for it seems to me thou art
precipitating thyself from the height of thy madness into the profound
abyss of thy simplicity.”
But the barber, who had the same suspicion as the curate, asked
Don Quixote what would be his advice as to the measures that he
said ought to be adopted; for perhaps it might prove to be one that
would have to be added to the list of the many impertinent suggestions
that people were in the habit of offering to princes.
“Mine, master shaver,” said Don Quixote, “will not be impertinent,
but, on the contrary, pertinent.”
“I don’t mean that,” said the barber, “but that experience has
shown that all or most of the expedients which are proposed to his
Majesty are either impossible, or absurd, or injurious to the King
and to the kingdom.”
“Mine, however,” replied Don Quixote, “is neither impossible
nor absurd, but the easiest, the most reasonable, the readiest and
most expeditious that could suggest itself to any projector’s mind.”
“You take a long time to tell it, Señor Don Quixote,” said the
curate.
“I don’t choose to tell it here, now,” said Don Quixote, “and have
it reach the ears of the lords of the council to-morrow morning,
and some other carry off the thanks and rewards of my trouble.”
“For my part,” said the barber, “I give my word here and before
God that I will not repeat what your worship says, to King, Rook or
earthly man—an oath I learned from the ballad of the curate, who,
in the prelude, told the king of the thief who had robbed him of the
hundred gold crowns and his pacing mule.”
“I am not versed in stories,” said Don Quixote; “but I know the
oath is a good one, because I know the barber to be an honest
fellow.”
“Even if he were not,” said the curate, “I will go bail and answer
for him that in this matter he will be as silent as a dummy, under
pain of paying any penalty that may be pronounced.”
“And who will be security for you, señor curate?” said Don Quixote.
“My profession,” replied the curate, “which is to keep secrets.”
“Ods body!” said Don Quixote at this, “what more has his Majesty
to do but to command, by public proclamation, all the knightserrant
that are scattered over Spain to assemble on a fixed day in
the capital, for even if no more than half a dozen come, there may
be one among them who alone will suffice to destroy the entire
might of the Turk. Give me your attention and follow me. Is it, pray,
any new thing for a single knight-errant to demolish an army of two
hundred thousand men, as if they all had but one throat or were
made of sugar paste? Nay, tell me, how many histories are there
filled with these marvels? If only (in an evil hour for me: I don’t
speak for anyone else) the famous Don Belianis were alive now, or
any one of the innumerable progeny of Amadis of Gaul! If any these
were alive today, and were to come face to face with the Turk, by
my faith, I would not give much for the Turk’s chance. But God will
have regard for his people, and will provide some one, who, if not
so valiant as the knights-errant of yore, at least will not be inferior
to them in spirit; but God knows what I mean, and I say no more.”
“Alas!” exclaimed the niece at this, “may I die if my master does
not want to turn knight-errant again;” to which Don Quixote replied,
“A knight-errant I shall die, and let the Turk come down or
go up when he likes, and in as strong force as he can, once more I
say, God knows what I mean.” But here the barber said, “I ask your
worships to give me leave to tell a short story of something that
happened in Seville, which comes so pat to the purpose just now
that I should like greatly to tell it.” Don Quixote gave him leave,
and the rest prepared to listen, and he began thus:
“In the madhouse at Seville there was a man whom his relations
had placed there as being out of his mind. He was a graduate of
Osuna in canon law; but even if he had been of Salamanca, it was
the opinion of most people that he would have been mad all the
same. This graduate, after some years of confinement, took it into
his head that he was sane and in his full senses, and under this
impression wrote to the Archbishop, entreating him earnestly, and
in very correct language, to have him released from the misery in
which he was living; for by God’s mercy he had now recovered his
lost reason, though his relations, in order to enjoy his property,
kept him there, and, in spite of the truth, would make him out to
be mad until his dying day. The Archbishop, moved by repeated
sensible, well-written letters, directed one of his chaplains to make
inquiry of the madhouse as to the truth of the licentiate’s statements,
and to have an interview with the madman himself, and, if
it should appear that he was in his senses, to take him out and
restore him to liberty. The chaplain did so, and the governor assured
him that the man was still mad, and that though he often
spoke like a highly intelligent person, he would in the end break
out into nonsense that in quantity and quality counterbalanced all
the sensible things he had said before, as might be easily tested by
talking to him. The chaplain resolved to try the experiment, and
obtaining access to the madman conversed with him for an hour or
more, during the whole of which time he never uttered a word that
was incoherent or absurd, but, on the contrary, spoke so rationally
that the chaplain was compelled to believe him to be sane. Among
other things, he said the governor was against him, not to lose the
presents his relations made him for reporting him still mad but
with lucid intervals; and that the worst foe he had in his misfortune
was his large property; for in order to enjoy it his enemies disparaged
and threw doubts upon the mercy our Lord had shown him in
turning him from a brute beast into a man. In short, he spoke in
such a way that he cast suspicion on the governor, and made his
relations appear covetous and heartless, and himself so rational
that the chaplain determined to take him away with him that the
Archbishop might see him, and ascertain for himself the truth of
the matter. Yielding to this conviction, the worthy chaplain begged
the governor to have the clothes in which the licentiate had entered
the house given to him. The governor again bade him beware of
what he was doing, as the licentiate was beyond a doubt still mad;
but all his cautions and warnings were unavailing to dissuade the
chaplain from taking him away. The governor, seeing that it was the
order of the Archbishop, obeyed, and they dressed the licentiate in
his own clothes, which were new and decent. He, as soon as he saw
himself clothed like one in his senses, and divested of the appearance
of a madman, entreated the chaplain to permit him in charity
to go and take leave of his comrades the madmen. The chaplain
said he would go with him to see what madmen there were in the
house; so they went upstairs, and with them some of those who
were present. Approaching a cage in which there was a furious
madman, though just at that moment calm and quiet, the licentiate
said to him, ‘Brother, think if you have any commands for me, for
I am going home, as God has been pleased, in his infinite goodness
and mercy, without any merit of mine, to restore me my reason. I
am now cured and in my senses, for with God’s power nothing is
impossible. Have strong hope and trust in him, for as he has restored
me to my original condition, so likewise he will restore you
if you trust in him. I will take care to send you some good things to
eat; and be sure you eat them; for I would have you know I am
convinced, as one who has gone through it, that all this madness of
ours comes of having the stomach empty and the brains full of
wind. Take courage! take courage! for despondency in misfortune
breaks down health and brings on death.’
“To all these words of the licentiate another madman in a cage
opposite that of the furious one was listening; and raising himself
up from an old mat on which he lay stark naked, he asked in a loud
voice who it was that was going away cured and in his senses. The
licentiate answered, ‘It is I, brother, who am going; I have now no
need to remain here any longer, for which I return infinite thanks
to Heaven that has had so great mercy upon me.’
“‘Mind what you are saying, licentiate; don’t let the devil deceive
you,’ replied the madman. ‘Keep quiet, stay where you are, and you
will save yourself the trouble of coming back.’
“‘I know I am cured,’ returned the licentiate, ‘and that I shall not
have to go stations again.’
“‘You cured!’ said the madman; ‘well, we shall see; God be with
you; but I swear to you by Jupiter, whose majesty I represent on
earth, that for this crime alone, which Seville is committing to-day
in releasing you from this house, and treating you as if you were in
your senses, I shall have to inflict such a punishment on it as will
be remembered for ages and ages, amen. Dost thou not know, thou
miserable little licentiate, that I can do it, being, as I say, Jupiter
the Thunderer, who hold in my hands the fiery bolts with which I
am able and am wont to threaten and lay waste the world? But in
one way only will I punish this ignorant town, and that is by not
raining upon it, nor on any part of its district or territory, for three
whole years, to be reckoned from the day and moment when this
threat is pronounced. Thou free, thou cured, thou in thy senses!
and I mad, I disordered, I bound! I will as soon think of sending
rain as of hanging myself.
“Those present stood listening to the words and exclamations of
the madman; but our licentiate, turning to the chaplain and seizing
him by the hands, said to him, ‘Be not uneasy, señor; attach no
importance to what this madman has said; for if he is Jupiter and
will not send rain, I, who am Neptune, the father and god of the
waters, will rain as often as it pleases me and may be needful.’
“The governor and the bystanders laughed, and at their laughter
the chaplain was half ashamed, and he replied, ‘For all that, Señor
Neptune, it will not do to vex Señor Jupiter; remain where you are,
and some other day, when there is a better opportunity and more
time, we will come back for you.’ So they stripped the licentiate,
and he was left where he was; and that’s the end of the story.”
“So that’s the story, master barber,” said Don Quixote, “which
came in so pat to the purpose that you could not help telling it?
Master shaver, master shaver! how blind is he who cannot see through
a sieve. Is it possible that you do not know that comparisons of wit
with wit, valour with valour, beauty with beauty, birth with birth,
are always odious and unwelcome? I, master barber, am not Neptune,
the god of the waters, nor do I try to make anyone take me for
an astute man, for I am not one. My only endeavour is to convince
the world of the mistake it makes in not reviving in itself the happy
time when the order of knight-errantry was in the field. But our
depraved age does not deserve to enjoy such a blessing as those ages
enjoyed when knights-errant took upon their shoulders the defence
of kingdoms, the protection of damsels, the succour of orphans
and minors, the chastisement of the proud, and the recompense of
the humble. With the knights of these days, for the most part, it is
the damask, brocade, and rich stuffs they wear, that rustle as they
go, not the chain mail of their armour; no knight now-a-days sleeps
in the open field exposed to the inclemency of heaven, and in full
panoply from head to foot; no one now takes a nap, as they call it,
without drawing his feet out of the stirrups, and leaning upon his
lance, as the knights-errant used to do; no one now, issuing from
the wood, penetrates yonder mountains, and then treads the barren,
lonely shore of the sea—mostly a tempestuous and stormy
one—and finding on the beach a little bark without oars, sail,
mast, or tackling of any kind, in the intrepidity of his heart flings
himself into it and commits himself to the wrathful billows of the
deep sea, that one moment lift him up to heaven and the next
plunge him into the depths; and opposing his breast to the irresistible
gale, finds himself, when he least expects it, three thousand
leagues and more away from the place where he embarked; and
leaping ashore in a remote and unknown land has adventures that
deserve to be written, not on parchment, but on brass. But now
sloth triumphs over energy, indolence over exertion, vice over virtue,
arrogance over courage, and theory over practice in arms, which
flourished and shone only in the golden ages and in knights-errant.
For tell me, who was more virtuous and more valiant than the
famous Amadis of Gaul? Who more discreet than Palmerin of England?
Who more gracious and easy than Tirante el Blanco? Who
more courtly than Lisuarte of Greece? Who more slashed or slashing
than Don Belianis? Who more intrepid than Perion of Gaul?
Who more ready to face danger than Felixmarte of Hircania? Who
more sincere than Esplandian? Who more impetuous than Don
Cirongilio of Thrace? Who more bold than Rodamonte? Who more
prudent than King Sobrino? Who more daring than Reinaldos? Who
more invincible than Roland? and who more gallant and courteous
than Ruggiero, from whom the dukes of Ferrara of the present day
are descended, according to Turpin in his ‘Cosmography.’ All these
knights, and many more that I could name, señor curate, were
knights-errant, the light and glory of chivalry. These, or such as
these, I would have to carry out my plan, and in that case his Majesty
would find himself well served and would save great expense,
and the Turk would be left tearing his beard. And so I will stay
where I am, as the chaplain does not take me away; and if Jupiter,
as the barber has told us, will not send rain, here am I, and I will
rain when I please. I say this that Master Basin may know that I
understand him.”
“Indeed, Señor Don Quixote,” said the barber, “I did not mean it
in that way, and, so help me God, my intention was good, and your
worship ought not to be vexed.”
“As to whether I ought to be vexed or not,” returned Don Quixote,
“I myself am the best judge.”
Hereupon the curate observed, “I have hardly said a word as yet;
and I would gladly be relieved of a doubt, arising from what Don
Quixote has said, that worries and works my conscience.”
“The señor curate has leave for more than that,” returned Don
Quixote, “so he may declare his doubt, for it is not pleasant to have
a doubt on one’s conscience.”
“Well then, with that permission,” said the curate, “I say my
doubt is that, all I can do, I cannot persuade myself that the whole
pack of knights-errant you, Señor Don Quixote, have mentioned,
were really and truly persons of flesh and blood, that ever lived in
the world; on the contrary, I suspect it to be all fiction, fable, and
falsehood, and dreams told by men awakened from sleep, or rather
still half asleep.”
“That is another mistake,” replied Don Quixote, “into which
many have fallen who do not believe that there ever were such
knights in the world, and I have often, with divers people and on
divers occasions, tried to expose this almost universal error to the
light of truth. Sometimes I have not been successful in my purpose,
sometimes I have, supporting it upon the shoulders of the truth;
which truth is so clear that I can almost say I have with my own eyes
seen Amadis of Gaul, who was a man of lofty stature, fair complexion,
with a handsome though black beard, of a countenance between
gentle and stern in expression, sparing of words, slow to
anger, and quick to put it away from him; and as I have depicted
Amadis, so I could, I think, portray and describe all the knightserrant
that are in all the histories in the world; for by the perception
I have that they were what their histories describe, and by the
deeds they did and the dispositions they displayed, it is possible,
with the aid of sound philosophy, to deduce their features, complexion,
and stature.”
“How big, in your worship’s opinion, may the giant Morgante
have been, Señor Don Quixote?” asked the barber.
“With regard to giants,” replied Don Quixote, “opinions differ as
to whether there ever were any or not in the world; but the Holy
Scripture, which cannot err by a jot from the truth, shows us that
there were, when it gives us the history of that big Philistine, Goliath,
who was seven cubits and a half in height, which is a huge size.
Likewise, in the island of Sicily, there have been found leg-bones and
arm-bones so large that their size makes it plain that their owners
were giants, and as tall as great towers; geometry puts this fact beyond
a doubt. But, for all that, I cannot speak with certainty as to the
size of Morgante, though I suspect he cannot have been very tall; and
I am inclined to be of this opinion because I find in the history in
which his deeds are particularly mentioned, that he frequently slept
under a roof and as he found houses to contain him, it is clear that
his bulk could not have been anything excessive.”
“That is true,” said the curate, and yielding to the enjoyment of
hearing such nonsense, he asked him what was his notion of the
features of Reinaldos of Montalban, and Don Roland and the rest
of the Twelve Peers of France, for they were all knights-errant.
“As for Reinaldos,” replied Don Quixote, “I venture to say that he
was broad-faced, of ruddy complexion, with roguish and somewhat
prominent eyes, excessively punctilious and touchy, and given to
the society of thieves and scapegraces. With regard to Roland, or
Rotolando, or Orlando (for the histories call him by all these names),
I am of opinion, and hold, that he was of middle height, broadshouldered,
rather bow-legged, swarthy-complexioned, red-bearded,
with a hairy body and a severe expression of countenance, a man of
few words, but very polite and well-bred.”
“If Roland was not a more graceful person than your worship has
described,” said the curate, “it is no wonder that the fair Lady
Angelica rejected him and left him for the gaiety, liveliness, and
grace of that budding-bearded little Moor to whom she surrendered
herself; and she showed her sense in falling in love with the
gentle softness of Medoro rather than the roughness of Roland.”
“That Angelica, señor curate,” returned Don Quixote, “was a giddy
damsel, flighty and somewhat wanton, and she left the world as full
of her vagaries as of the fame of her beauty. She treated with scorn
a thousand gentlemen, men of valour and wisdom, and took up
with a smooth-faced sprig of a page, without fortune or fame, except
such reputation for gratitude as the affection he bore his friend
got for him. The great poet who sang her beauty, the famous Ariosto,
not caring to sing her adventures after her contemptible surrender
(which probably were not over and above creditable), dropped her
where he says:
How she received the sceptre of Cathay,
Some bard of defter quill may sing some day;
and this was no doubt a kind of prophecy, for poets are also called
vates, that is to say diviners; and its truth was made plain; for since
then a famous Andalusian poet has lamented and sung her tears,
and another famous and rare poet, a Castilian, has sung her beauty.”
“Tell me, Señor Don Quixote,” said the barber here, “among all
those who praised her, has there been no poet to write a satire on
this Lady Angelica?”
“I can well believe,” replied Don Quixote, “that if Sacripante or
Roland had been poets they would have given the damsel a trimming;
for it is naturally the way with poets who have been scorned
and rejected by their ladies, whether fictitious or not, in short by
those whom they select as the ladies of their thoughts, to avenge
themselves in satires and libels—a vengeance, to be sure, unworthy
of generous hearts; but up to the present I have not heard of any
defamatory verse against the Lady Angelica, who turned the world
upside down.”
“Strange,” said the curate; but at this moment they heard the
housekeeper and the niece, who had previously withdrawn from
the conversation, exclaiming aloud in the courtyard, and at the
noise they all ran out.





 
 
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