The first adventure of the new knight did not turn out at all to his liking, nor answered his expectations, for in all the books of chivalry which he had read, never had he heard of a good knight being sorely wounded by a mere pack of common fellows, as happened to himself shortly after leaving the inn; though indeed he comforted his soul by thinking that, had not Rozinante stumbled over a stone and fallen, it would have fared ill with his foes.
He lay upon the ground for some time, aching in every bone, and repeating in a weak voice some lines out of his favourite romance of the ‘Marquis of Mantua,’ when a labourer from his own village came by and went to see if the man stretched on his back across the road was dead or only wounded.
‘What ails you, master?’ asked he; but as the vizor over the Don’s face prevented his answer being understood, the labourer pulled it off with some trouble, and then stood, staring with surprise.
‘Master Quixada!’ cried he, wiping off the blood as he spoke, ‘what villain has served you like this?’ but, as Don Quixote only replied to his questions with long stories of the heroes of romance, the man gave it up, and after gathering up the stray bits of armour, and even the broken lance, helped the Don on to his own ass and took Rozinante by the bridle.
In this manner Don Quixote returned home.
When the knight dismounted and entered the house he found his housekeeper and niece filled with dismay, and bewailing his loss to the priest and the barber, who were wont to spend many an hour in company with the Don, listening to the strange tales that were always on his tongue. The joy with which they heard his well-known knock, in the middle of their discourses, was somewhat spoilt when they saw the condition he was in, and he stopped them quickly when they flew to embrace him.
‘Let no one touch me,’ cried he, ‘for by the falling of my horse I am sore wounded. Carry me to bed, and summon the wise woman Urganda to heal me with her enchanted water.’
‘Oh, never fear, your worship, we can cure you without her,’ answered the housekeeper; ‘and right glad we are to see you back, wounded or not.’
So between them all they bore him up the narrow stairs and laid him on his bed. And when he was undressed they sought his wounds, but found none, only a black bruise so they told him.
‘Is it so?’ he answered. ‘Then the deeds that I did were yet more valorous than I thought. It was while I was fighting with ten giants, the biggest and strongest who ever gave battle to any Christian knight, that Rozinante fell, and I with him.’
‘Oh! so there are giants in the dance now,’ whispered the priest to the barber. ‘I will not close my eyes this night till the books which have brought this evil are safely in the fire.’ And, so saying, they left Don Quixote to sleep.
He was still sleeping next morning, when the priest came to ask for the keys of the little room where Don Quixote kept the old books he so much loved. They were handed to him with joy by the girl, who held books to be the enemy of all mankind, and when they all four entered they found more than a hundred volumes large and small, which was a great number for so poor a gentleman. One by one the priest examined them, and condemned them to the flames, unless by chance there was any doubt about their wickedness; that is, unless they had been written by a friend of the priest. In these cases, after the barber had been consulted, the books escaped the doom of the rest.
For fifteen days Don Quixote stayed at home and seemed content to stay there, passing the evenings in talk with the priest and the barber. Nothing was needed, he said, to put right the wrongs of the world, save a new order of knighthood, of which he had set the example. After much of this talk he suddenly remembered that a knight ever had a squire riding behind him, and that before he rode forth on his next quest he must needs provide himself with such an one. This was almost as hard a matter as finding a liege lady, but at length he bethought him of a poor peasant living in the same village, who possessed a wife and children, and not much else. This man he sent for, and promised him such great things and such noble rewards that Sancho Panza, for such was his name, readily agreed to serve him. ‘Who knows,’ said Don Quixote, ‘what island I may conquer, and it would then fall to you to be the governor, or if you disdain the island, and would prefer to follow my fortune, I can make you Count at least! But, remember, my business admits of no delay, and next week we go forth to seek adventures. Meanwhile, I will give you money wherewith to provide all that is needful for our journeying, and take heed that you bring wallets with you.’
‘I know not,’ replied Don Quixote, ‘if any knight was ever yet followed by a squire mounted on an ass’s back. Yet, bring the beast, for it will doubtless not be long before I meet some discourteous knight, whom I will speedily overcome, and his horse shall be yours.’
When all was ready, Sancho Panza bade his wife and children farewell, and, joining his master, they rode for some hours across a wide plain without seeing anything which would enable them to prove their valour. At length Don Quixote reined up Rozinante with a jerk, and turning to his squire he said:
‘Fortune is on our side, friend Sancho. Look there, what huge giants are standing in a row! thirty of them at the least! It is a glorious chance for a new-made knight to give battle to these giants, and to rid the country of this wretched horde.’
‘What giants?’ asked Sancho, staring about him. ‘I see none.’
‘Those drawn up over there,’ replied the Don. ‘Never did I behold such arms! Those nearest us must be two miles long.’
‘Go not within reach of them, good master,’ answered Sancho anxiously, ‘for they are no giants, but windmills, and what you take for arms are the sails, by which the wind turns the mill-stones.’
‘How little do you know, friend Sancho, of these sorts of adventures!’ replied Don Quixote. ‘I tell you, those are no windmills, but giants. Know, however, that I will have no man with me who shivers with fear at the sight of a foe, so if you are afraid you had better fall to praying, and I will fight them alone.’
And with that he put spurs to Rozinante and galloped towards the windmills, heedless of the shouts of Sancho Panza, which indeed he never heard. Bending his body and holding his lance in rest, like all the pictures of knights when charging, he rushed on, crying as he went, ‘Do not fly from me, cowards that you are! It is but a single knight with whom you must do battle!’ And, calling on the Lady Dulcinea to come to his aid, he thrust his lance through the sail of the nearest windmill, which happened to be turned by a sharp gust of wind. The sail struck Rozinante so violently on the side that he and his master rolled over together, while the lance broke into small pieces.
When Sancho Panza saw what had befallen the Don — though indeed it was no more than he had expected — he rode up hastily to give him help. Both man and horse were half stunned with the blow; but, though Don Quixote’s body was bruised, his spirit was unconquered, and to Sancho’s complaint that no one could have doubted that the windmills were giants save those who had other windmills in their brains, he only answered:
‘Be silent, my friend, and do not talk of things of which you know nothing. For of this I am sure, that the enchanter Friston, who robbed me of my books, has changed these knights into windmills to rob me of my glory also. But in the end, his black arts will have little power against my keen blade!’
‘I pray that it may be so,’ said Sancho, as he still held the stirrup for his master, when he struggled, not without pain, to mount Rozinante.
‘Sit straighter in your saddle,’ went on the worthy man; ‘you lean too much on one side, but that doubtless comes from the fall you have had.’
‘You speak truly,’ replied Don Quixote; ‘and if I do not complain of my hurt, it is because it was never heard that any knight complained of a wound, however sore!’
‘If that is so, I am thankful that I am only a squire,’ answered Sancho; ‘for this I can say, that I shall cry as loud as I please for any pain, however little it may be — unless squires are forbidden to cry out as well as knights-errant.’
At this Don Quixote laughed, in spite of his hurts, and bade him complain whenever he pleased, for squires might lawfully do what was forbidden to knighthood. And with that the conversation ended, as Sancho declared it was their hour for dinner.
Towards three o’clock they returned to the road, which Don Quixote had left on catching sight of the windmills. But before entering it the knight thought well to give a warning to his squire.
‘I would have you know, brother Sancho,’ said he, ‘that in whatsoever danger you may see me you shall stand aside, and never seek to defend me, unless those who set on me should come of base forefathers, and not be people of gentle birth. For if those who attack me are knights, it is forbidden by the laws of chivalry that a knight be attacked by any man that has himself not received the honour of knighthood.’
‘Your lordship shall be obeyed in all that you say,’ answered Sancho, ‘and the more readily that I am a man of peace, and like not brawls. But, see, who are these that approach us?’
The question was natural, for the procession advancing along the road was a strange one, even at that day. First came two monks of the Order of St. Benedict, mounted on mules so large that Don Quixote, with some reason, took them to be dromedaries. The better to conceal their faces they had masks, and carried parasols. After them came a coach which had for a guard four or five mounted men and two muleteers, and inside the coach was seated a lady on her way to join her husband in the city of Seville. In reality the monks were strangers to her, and had nothing to do with her party, but this Don Quixote did not know, and, being ever on the watch to give help to any who needed it, he said:
‘Either my eyes deceive me, or this is the most wonderful adventure that ever fell to the lot of a knight. For those black shapeless monsters that you see yonder are magicians carrying off some princess, and I must undo this wrong with all the strength I have.’
‘Look you, master,’ answered Sancho hastily, ‘if you take up with this adventure, you will fare worse than you did with the windmills. Those are no magicians but monks of St. Benedict, while the others are travellers, journeying for business or pleasure. Think, I pray you, lest it be a snare of the Evil One.’
‘I have often told you, Sancho, that, being what you are, you can know nothing of adventures,’ replied Don Quixote; ‘but what I have said, I do, as you will see’; and as he spoke he planted himself in the middle of the road, and awaited the approach of the friars.
As soon as they drew near enough for his voice to reach their ears, Don Quixote cried loudly:
‘Fiends and scum of all the wicked, set free on this instant the captive princess whom you hold imprisoned in that coach, or else prepare for death, which is the just punishment of all your crimes.’
The monks reined in their mules and stared at Don Quixote, whose figure, to say truth, was no less startling than his words. At first they were very angry, then gentler counsels prevailed, and they answered:
‘Fair sir, we are neither fiends nor scum, but only two friars of St. Benedict, who are riding peacefully along the king’s highway, and know nothing of any captive princess.’
‘Miscreants that you are, do you think I am a man to be deceived by false speeches?’ cried the Don, now beside himself with fury, and, dashing with his lance in rest at the friar next him, he would indeed have given him his last shrift had not the monk slipped cleverly from the other side of his saddle, so that the lance passed over his head. His companion, fearing that like treatment was in store for him, galloped away with all his might.
As for the squire, directly he saw the man fall to the ground he ran up and began to strip off his clothes, till he was stopped in this proceeding by a blow on his head from one of the attendants of the two monks. The friar, left to himself, jumped on his mule, and rode off pale and trembling to rejoin his companion, while Don Quixote busied himself with conversing with the lady in the coach, and assuring her of his protection.
It were long indeed to tell of the many battles delivered by Don Quixote, who troubled himself little about the sore wounds he received on his own body as long as he could give aid to those in distress. What grieved him far more than mere sword-thrusts or bruises was the loss of his helmet.
But, come what might, his spirit was never daunted, though he could not deny that, as Sancho Panza truly said, never had they gained any battle, unless they counted one which was doubtful, and even at that the knight had come off the poorer by half an ear and half a helmet.
‘From the first day we set out,’ went on the good squire, ‘until this moment, we have received nothing but blows and more blows, beatings and more beatings, over and above the tossing I once got in a blanket. And you tell me that the fellows who maltreat me so are enchanted, and would not feel my blows if I had a chance of returning them. In truth, my eyes are too dull to see where lies the pleasure of conquering one’s foes, of which your worship is always telling me.’
‘Ah, Sancho, that is just what grieves me,’ answered Don Quixote sadly; ‘but henceforth I will seek to gird myself always with a sword that shall be enchanted in such a manner that it will defend me from any spells they may try to throw over me. Maybe that Fortune will send me that of Amadis, one of the keenest blades in the world, and the best sword that ever knight had. But look, do you see that cloud of dust rising out there? That tells us that a large army, made up of men and nations without number, are marching towards us.’
‘By that way of reckoning,’ answered the squire, ‘another army must be advancing to meet them, for behind us the cloud is just as thick.’
Filled with joy at the thought of fighting two armies, Don Quixote turned to look, and his heart beat high. The dust was so thick that neither he nor Sancho could perceive that the clouds of dust were caused by two immense flocks of sheep. To the mind of the knight they could be nothing but vast armies, and this he declared so positively that at length Sancho Panza came to believe it also. The squire, however, looked on the fact with very different feelings to his master, and asked anxiously:
‘Noble sir, what are we to do?’
‘What can we do,’ replied the knight, ‘except fly to the help of those who need it? For you must know, friend Sancho, that the army in front of us is led by the Emperor Alifanfaron, while the other, which is marching to meet him, is Pentapolin of the Uplifted Arm, so called because he rides into battle with his right arm bare.’
‘And what is their quarrel?’ asked Sancho.
‘Alifanfaron is a Moslem, yet desires to marry the daughter of Pentapolin,’ replied Don Quixote, ‘but her father will not give her to him till he ceases to be an unbeliever.’
‘By my beard,’ cried Sancho, ‘if I see this Pentapolin driven back I will strike a blow for him with all my might.’
‘And you will do well,’ replied Don Quixote, ‘for in such battles it is not necessary to be a knight.’
‘But what shall I do with my ass?’ inquired the squire anxiously, ‘for I suppose that until this day no man has ever yet ridden into combat on an ass.’
‘Let him loose,’ said Don Quixote, ‘and think no more of him, for after we have vanquished our enemies we shall have such choice of horses that I may light upon one even better than Rozinante! But let us stand on yonder little hill, for I would fain describe to you the names and arms of the noble knights that are approaching.’
For a long while he spoke, telling his squire of the countries from which those leaders of the armies had come. And truly it was wonderful to listen to him, seeing that they were all children of his own brain. From time to time Sancho Panza stared hard at the dust, trying to see as much as his master, and at last he cried:
‘If there is a knight or a giant there, they must be enchanted like the rest; for, look as I may, I cannot see them.’
‘How can you speak such words?’ answered Don Quixote reproachfully. ‘Do you not hear the horses neighing, the drums beating, the trumpets sounding?’
‘No, I hear nothing of all that,’ replied Sancho stoutly; ‘all I hear is the bleating of sheep and of ewes.’ And as he spoke the dust was lifted by the wind, and he saw the two flocks in front of them.
‘It is the deadly fear which has overtaken you,’ answered Don Quixote, ‘which has clouded your eyes and ears, and made everything seem different from what it is. If you are afraid, stand aside then, for my arm alone carries victory with it’; and, so saying, he touched Rozinante with his spurs, and with his lance in rest galloped down the hill, unheeding the cries of Sancho, who shrieked out that it was only a flock of sheep that he saw, and that there were neither giants nor knights to fight with.
He might have spared his voice, for Don Quixote, if he heard him, which is doubtful, rode on without turning his head, shouting defiance at the Moslem leader, and spearing the sheep which could not get out of his way, as if they were indeed the soldiers he took them for.
When the shepherds had recovered from this unexpected onslaught, they shouted with all their might to Don Quixote to leave off spearing their sheep, but, as he paid no heed to their warnings, they took out the slings they carried with them, and whirling them round their heads let fly large stones. Don Quixote, however, cared no more for the stones than he had done for the cries, and galloped up and down wildly, calling as he went:
‘Proud Alifanfaron, where can I find you? I, a solitary knight, challenge you to meet me in single combat, that I may avenge the wrongs that you have done to the noble Pentapolin!’ Doubtless the knight would have said still more had not a stone hit him on his side at that very moment, breaking two of his ribs. At first he thought he was dead, but, recollecting the balsam which he kept in his wallet, he drank a draught of it, although it was only intended to be laid on the outside of wounds and bruises.
He was still in the act of swallowing it when another missile struck him full on the face, and knocked out some of his teeth. He reeled in his saddle from the blow, and then fell heavily to the ground.
The shepherds, frightened at what they had done, ran up to look at him, and seeing him lying there senseless, drove quickly off the rest of their flock, leaving the seven that Don Quixote had speared stretched beside him.
Directly the shepherds had departed, Sancho Panza came down to look after his master, and finding him bruised and bleeding, but not stunned, he fell to reproaching him for his folly. But the knight only answered that if the enemies around him seemed to bear the likeness of sheep, it was only because they had been enchanted, and that their fellows now marching along the road would soon regain their proper shape, and become straight men and tall again.
Then, with Sancho’s help, he mounted Rozinante, and the two rode slowly along the road, hoping that they might shortly discover an inn, where they could get food and rest.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:57