Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes

Chapter LXIII.

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Of the Mishap that Befell Sancho Panza Through the Visit to the Galleys, and the Strange Adventure of the Fair Morisco

Profound were Don Quixote’s reflections on the reply of the enchanted head, not one of them, however, hitting on the secret of the trick, but all concentrated on the promise, which he regarded as a certainty, of Dulcinea’s disenchantment. This he turned over in his mind again and again with great satisfaction, fully persuaded that he would shortly see its fulfillment; and as for Sancho, though, as has been said, he hated being a governor, still he had a longing to be giving orders and finding himself obeyed once more; this is the misfortune that being in authority, even in jest, brings with it.

To resume; that afternoon their host Don Antonio Moreno and his two friends, with Don Quixote and Sancho, went to the galleys. The commandant had been already made aware of his good fortune in seeing two such famous persons as Don Quixote and Sancho, and the instant they came to the shore all the galleys struck their awnings and the clarions rang out. A skiff covered with rich carpets and cushions of crimson velvet was immediately lowered into the water, and as Don Quixote stepped on board of it, the leading galley fired her gangway gun, and the other galleys did the same; and as he mounted the starboard ladder the whole crew saluted him (as is the custom when a personage of distinction comes on board a galley) by exclaiming “Hu, hu, hu,” three times. The general, for so we shall call him, a Valencian gentleman of rank, gave him his hand and embraced him, saying, “I shall mark this day with a white stone as one of the happiest I can expect to enjoy in my lifetime, since I have seen Senor Don Quixote of La Mancha, pattern and image wherein we see contained and condensed all that is worthy in knight-errantry.”

Don Quixote delighted beyond measure with such a lordly reception, replied to him in words no less courteous. All then proceeded to the poop, which was very handsomely decorated, and seated themselves on the bulwark benches; the boatswain passed along the gangway and piped all hands to strip, which they did in an instant. Sancho, seeing such a number of men stripped to the skin, was taken aback, and still more when he saw them spread the awning so briskly that it seemed to him as if all the devils were at work at it; but all this was cakes and fancy bread to what I am going to tell now. Sancho was seated on the captain’s stage, close to the aftermost rower on the right-hand side. He, previously instructed in what he was to do, laid hold of Sancho, hoisting him up in his arms, and the whole crew, who were standing ready, beginning on the right, proceeded to pass him on, whirling him along from hand to hand and from bench to bench with such rapidity that it took the sight out of poor Sancho’s eyes, and he made quite sure that the devils themselves were flying away with him; nor did they leave off with him until they had sent him back along the left side and deposited him on the poop; and the poor fellow was left bruised and breathless and all in a sweat, and unable to comprehend what it was that had happened to him.

Don Quixote when he saw Sancho’s flight without wings asked the general if this was a usual ceremony with those who came on board the galleys for the first time; for, if so, as he had no intention of adopting them as a profession, he had no mind to perform such feats of agility, and if anyone offered to lay hold of him to whirl him about, he vowed to God he would kick his soul out; and as he said this he stood up and clapped his hand upon his sword. At this instant they struck the awning and lowered the yard with a prodigious rattle. Sancho thought heaven was coming off its hinges and going to fall on his head, and full of terror he ducked it and buried it between his knees; nor were Don Quixote’s knees altogether under control, for he too shook a little, squeezed his shoulders together and lost colour. The crew then hoisted the yard with the same rapidity and clatter as when they lowered it, all the while keeping silence as though they had neither voice nor breath. The boatswain gave the signal to weigh anchor, and leaping upon the middle of the gangway began to lay on to the shoulders of the crew with his courbash or whip, and to haul out gradually to sea.

When Sancho saw so many red feet (for such he took the oars to be) moving all together, he said to himself, “It’s these that are the real chanted things, and not the ones my master talks of. What can those wretches have done to be so whipped; and how does that one man who goes along there whistling dare to whip so many? I declare this is hell, or at least purgatory!”

Don Quixote, observing how attentively Sancho regarded what was going on, said to him, “Ah, Sancho my friend, how quickly and cheaply might you finish off the disenchantment of Dulcinea, if you would strip to the waist and take your place among those gentlemen! Amid the pain and sufferings of so many you would not feel your own much; and moreover perhaps the sage Merlin would allow each of these lashes, being laid on with a good hand, to count for ten of those which you must give yourself at last.”

The general was about to ask what these lashes were, and what was Dulcinea’s disenchantment, when a sailor exclaimed, “Monjui signals that there is an oared vessel off the coast to the west.”

On hearing this the general sprang upon the gangway crying, “Now then, my sons, don’t let her give us the slip! It must be some Algerine corsair brigantine that the watchtower signals to us.” The three others immediately came alongside the chief galley to receive their orders. The general ordered two to put out to sea while he with the other kept in shore, so that in this way the vessel could not escape them. The crews plied the oars driving the galleys so furiously that they seemed to fly. The two that had put out to sea, after a couple of miles sighted a vessel which, so far as they could make out, they judged to be one of fourteen or fifteen banks, and so she proved. As soon as the vessel discovered the galleys she went about with the object and in the hope of making her escape by her speed; but the attempt failed, for the chief galley was one of the fastest vessels afloat, and overhauled her so rapidly that they on board the brigantine saw clearly there was no possibility of escaping, and the rais therefore would have had them drop their oars and give themselves up so as not to provoke the captain in command of our galleys to anger. But chance, directing things otherwise, so ordered it that just as the chief galley came close enough for those on board the vessel to hear the shouts from her calling on them to surrender, two Toraquis, that is to say two Turks, both drunken, that with a dozen more were on board the brigantine, discharged their muskets, killing two of the soldiers that lined the sides of our vessel. Seeing this the general swore he would not leave one of those he found on board the vessel alive, but as he bore down furiously upon her she slipped away from him underneath the oars. The galley shot a good way ahead; those on board the vessel saw their case was desperate, and while the galley was coming about they made sail, and by sailing and rowing once more tried to sheer off; but their activity did not do them as much good as their rashness did them harm, for the galley coming up with them in a little more than half a mile threw her oars over them and took the whole of them alive. The other two galleys now joined company and all four returned with the prize to the beach, where a vast multitude stood waiting for them, eager to see what they brought back. The general anchored close in, and perceived that the viceroy of the city was on the shore. He ordered the skiff to push off to fetch him, and the yard to be lowered for the purpose of hanging forthwith the rais and the rest of the men taken on board the vessel, about six-and-thirty in number, all smart fellows and most of them Turkish musketeers. He asked which was the rais of the brigantine, and was answered in Spanish by one of the prisoners (who afterwards proved to he a Spanish renegade), “This young man, senor that you see here is our rais,” and he pointed to one of the handsomest and most gallant-looking youths that could be imagined. He did not seem to be twenty years of age.

“Tell me, dog,” said the general, “what led thee to kill my soldiers, when thou sawest it was impossible for thee to escape? Is that the way to behave to chief galleys? Knowest thou not that rashness is not valour? Faint prospects of success should make men bold, but not rash.”

The rais was about to reply, but the general could not at that moment listen to him, as he had to hasten to receive the viceroy, who was now coming on board the galley, and with him certain of his attendants and some of the people.

“You have had a good chase, senor general,” said the viceroy.

“Your excellency shall soon see how good, by the game strung up to this yard,” replied the general.

“How so?” returned the viceroy.

“Because,” said the general, “against all law, reason, and usages of war they have killed on my hands two of the best soldiers on board these galleys, and I have sworn to hang every man that I have taken, but above all this youth who is the rais of the brigantine,” and he pointed to him as he stood with his hands already bound and the rope round his neck, ready for death.

The viceroy looked at him, and seeing him so well-favoured, so graceful, and so submissive, he felt a desire to spare his life, the comeliness of the youth furnishing him at once with a letter of recommendation. He therefore questioned him, saying, “Tell me, rais, art thou Turk, Moor, or renegade?”

To which the youth replied, also in Spanish, “I am neither Turk, nor Moor, nor renegade.”

“What art thou, then?” said the viceroy.

“A Christian woman,” replied the youth.

“A woman and a Christian, in such a dress and in such circumstances! It is more marvellous than credible,” said the viceroy.

“Suspend the execution of the sentence,” said the youth; “your vengeance will not lose much by waiting while I tell you the story of my life.”

What heart could be so hard as not to he softened by these words, at any rate so far as to listen to what the unhappy youth had to say? The general bade him say what he pleased, but not to expect pardon for his flagrant offence. With this permission the youth began in these words.

“Born of Morisco parents, I am of that nation, more unhappy than wise, upon which of late a sea of woes has poured down. In the course of our misfortune I was carried to Barbary by two uncles of mine, for it was in vain that I declared I was a Christian, as in fact I am, and not a mere pretended one, or outwardly, but a true Catholic Christian. It availed me nothing with those charged with our sad expatriation to protest this, nor would my uncles believe it; on the contrary, they treated it as an untruth and a subterfuge set up to enable me to remain behind in the land of my birth; and so, more by force than of my own will, they took me with them. I had a Christian mother, and a father who was a man of sound sense and a Christian too; I imbibed the Catholic faith with my mother’s milk, I was well brought up, and neither in word nor in deed did I, I think, show any sign of being a Morisco. To accompany these virtues, for such I hold them, my beauty, if I possess any, grew with my growth; and great as was the seclusion in which I lived it was not so great but that a young gentleman, Don Gaspar Gregorio by name, eldest son of a gentleman who is lord of a village near ours, contrived to find opportunities of seeing me. How he saw me, how we met, how his heart was lost to me, and mine not kept from him, would take too long to tell, especially at a moment when I am in dread of the cruel cord that threatens me interposing between tongue and throat; I will only say, therefore, that Don Gregorio chose to accompany me in our banishment. He joined company with the Moriscoes who were going forth from other villages, for he knew their language very well, and on the voyage he struck up a friendship with my two uncles who were carrying me with them; for my father, like a wise and far-sighted man, as soon as he heard the first edict for our expulsion, quitted the village and departed in quest of some refuge for us abroad. He left hidden and buried, at a spot of which I alone have knowledge, a large quantity of pearls and precious stones of great value, together with a sum of money in gold cruzadoes and doubloons. He charged me on no account to touch the treasure, if by any chance they expelled us before his return. I obeyed him, and with my uncles, as I have said, and others of our kindred and neighbours, passed over to Barbary, and the place where we took up our abode was Algiers, much the same as if we had taken it up in hell itself. The king heard of my beauty, and report told him of my wealth, which was in some degree fortunate for me. He summoned me before him, and asked me what part of Spain I came from, and what money and jewels I had. I mentioned the place, and told him the jewels and money were buried there; but that they might easily be recovered if I myself went back for them. All this I told him, in dread lest my beauty and not his own covetousness should influence him. While he was engaged in conversation with me, they brought him word that in company with me was one of the handsomest and most graceful youths that could be imagined. I knew at once that they were speaking of Don Gaspar Gregorio, whose comeliness surpasses the most highly vaunted beauty. I was troubled when I thought of the danger he was in, for among those barbarous Turks a fair youth is more esteemed than a woman, be she ever so beautiful. The king immediately ordered him to be brought before him that he might see him, and asked me if what they said about the youth was true. I then, almost as if inspired by heaven, told him it was, but that I would have him to know it was not a man, but a woman like myself, and I entreated him to allow me to go and dress her in the attire proper to her, so that her beauty might be seen to perfection, and that she might present herself before him with less embarrassment. He bade me go by all means, and said that the next day we should discuss the plan to be adopted for my return to Spain to carry away the hidden treasure. I saw Don Gaspar, I told him the danger he was in if he let it be seen he was a man, I dressed him as a Moorish woman, and that same afternoon I brought him before the king, who was charmed when he saw him, and resolved to keep the damsel and make a present of her to the Grand Signor; and to avoid the risk she might run among the women of his seraglio, and distrustful of himself, he commanded her to be placed in the house of some Moorish ladies of rank who would protect and attend to her; and thither he was taken at once. What we both suffered (for I cannot deny that I love him) may be left to the imagination of those who are separated if they love one an. other dearly. The king then arranged that I should return to Spain in this brigantine, and that two Turks, those who killed your soldiers, should accompany me. There also came with me this Spanish renegade” — and here she pointed to him who had first spoken — “whom I know to be secretly a Christian, and to be more desirous of being left in Spain than of returning to Barbary. The rest of the crew of the brigantine are Moors and Turks, who merely serve as rowers. The two Turks, greedy and insolent, instead of obeying the orders we had to land me and this renegade in Christian dress (with which we came provided) on the first Spanish ground we came to, chose to run along the coast and make some prize if they could, fearing that if they put us ashore first, we might, in case of some accident befalling us, make it known that the brigantine was at sea, and thus, if there happened to be any galleys on the coast, they might be taken. We sighted this shore last night, and knowing nothing of these galleys, we were discovered, and the result was what you have seen. To sum up, there is Don Gregorio in woman’s dress, among women, in imminent danger of his life; and here am I, with hands bound, in expectation, or rather in dread, of losing my life, of which I am already weary. Here, sirs, ends my sad story, as true as it is unhappy; all I ask of you is to allow me to die like a Christian, for, as I have already said, I am not to be charged with the offence of which those of my nation are guilty;” and she stood silent, her eyes filled with moving tears, accompanied by plenty from the bystanders. The viceroy, touched with compassion, went up to her without speaking and untied the cord that bound the hands of the Moorish girl.

But all the while the Morisco Christian was telling her strange story, an elderly pilgrim, who had come on board of the galley at the same time as the viceroy, kept his eyes fixed upon her; and the instant she ceased speaking he threw himself at her feet, and embracing them said in a voice broken by sobs and sighs, “O Ana Felix, my unhappy daughter, I am thy father Ricote, come back to look for thee, unable to live without thee, my soul that thou art!”

At these words of his, Sancho opened his eyes and raised his head, which he had been holding down, brooding over his unlucky excursion; and looking at the pilgrim he recognised in him that same Ricote he met the day he quitted his government, and felt satisfied that this was his daughter. She being now unbound embraced her father, mingling her tears with his, while he addressing the general and the viceroy said, “This, sirs, is my daughter, more unhappy in her adventures than in her name. She is Ana Felix, surnamed Ricote, celebrated as much for her own beauty as for my wealth. I quitted my native land in search of some shelter or refuge for us abroad, and having found one in Germany I returned in this pilgrim’s dress, in the company of some other German pilgrims, to seek my daughter and take up a large quantity of treasure I had left buried. My daughter I did not find, the treasure I found and have with me; and now, in this strange roundabout way you have seen, I find the treasure that more than all makes me rich, my beloved daughter. If our innocence and her tears and mine can with strict justice open the door to clemency, extend it to us, for we never had any intention of injuring you, nor do we sympathise with the aims of our people, who have been justly banished.”

“I know Ricote well,” said Sancho at this, “and I know too that what he says about Ana Felix being his daughter is true; but as to those other particulars about going and coming, and having good or bad intentions, I say nothing.”

While all present stood amazed at this strange occurrence the general said, “At any rate your tears will not allow me to keep my oath; live, fair Ana Felix, all the years that heaven has allotted you; but these rash insolent fellows must pay the penalty of the crime they have committed;” and with that he gave orders to have the two Turks who had killed his two soldiers hanged at once at the yard-arm. The viceroy, however, begged him earnestly not to hang them, as their behaviour savoured rather of madness than of bravado. The general yielded to the viceroy’s request, for revenge is not easily taken in cold blood. They then tried to devise some scheme for rescuing Don Gaspar Gregorio from the danger in which he had been left. Ricote offered for that object more than two thousand ducats that he had in pearls and gems; they proposed several plans, but none so good as that suggested by the renegade already mentioned, who offered to return to Algiers in a small vessel of about six banks, manned by Christian rowers, as he knew where, how, and when he could and should land, nor was he ignorant of the house in which Don Gaspar was staying. The general and the viceroy had some hesitation about placing confidence in the renegade and entrusting him with the Christians who were to row, but Ana Felix said she could answer for him, and her father offered to go and pay the ransom of the Christians if by any chance they should not be forthcoming. This, then, being agreed upon, the viceroy landed, and Don Antonio Moreno took the fair Morisco and her father home with him, the viceroy charging him to give them the best reception and welcome in his power, while on his own part he offered all that house contained for their entertainment; so great was the good-will and kindliness the beauty of Ana Felix had infused into his heart.

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Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 13:06