And the World Rocked with Laughter

September 26, 2014

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1547–1616). Don Quixote, Part 1.
Vol. 14, pp. 29-35 of The Harvard Classics

The gaunt lunatic, Don Quixote, saw the world through glasses colored with romanticism that had gone out of style hundreds of years before he was born. Cervantes made the world laugh at the exaggerated stories it had been devouring.
(Printing of Cervantes' "Don Quixote" licensed, Sept. 26, 1604.)

III. Wherein Is Recounted the Pleasant Manner Observed in the Knighting of Don Quixote

AND being thus tossed in mind, he made a short, beggarly supper; which being finished, he called for his host, and, shutting the stable door very fast, he laid himself down upon his knees in it before him, saying, ‘I will never rise from the place where I am, valorous knight, until your courtesy shall grant unto me a boon that I mean to demand of you, the which will redound unto your renown, and also to the profit of all human kind.’ The innkeeper seeing his guest at his feet, and hearing him speak those words, remained confounded beholding him, not knowing what he might do or say, and did study and labour to make him arise; but all was in vain, until he must have promised unto him that he would grant him any gift that he sought at his hands. “I did never expect less,’ replied Don Quixote, ‘from your magnificence, my lord; and therefore I say unto you, that the boon which I demand of you, and that hath been granted unto me by your liberality, is, that to-morrow, in the morning, you will dub me knight, and this night I will watch mine armour in the chapel of your castle, and in the morning, as I have said, the rest of my desires shall be accomplished, that I may go in due manner throughout the four parts of the world, to seek adventures, to the benefit of the needy, as is the duty of knighthood, and of knights-errant, as I am; whose desires are wholly inclined and dedicated to such achievements.’ The host, who, as we noted before, was a great giber, and had before gathered some arguments of the defect of wit in his guest, did wholly now persuade himself that his suspicions were true, when he heard him speak in that manner; and that he might have an occasion of laughter, he resolved to feed his humour that night; and therefore answered him, that he had very great reason in that which he desired and sought, and that such projects were proper and natural to knights of the garb and worth he seemed to be of; and that he himself likewise, in his youthful years, had followed that honourable exercise, going through divers parts of the world to seek adventures, without either omitting the dangers of Malaga, the Isles of Riaran, the compass of Seville, the quicksilver house of Segovia, the olive field of Valencia, the circuit of Granada, the wharf of St. Lucar, the Potro or Cowlt of Cordova, and the little taverns of Toledo; and many other places, wherein he practised the dexterity of his hands; doing many wrongs, soliciting many widows, undoing certain maidens, and deceiving many pupils, and finally making himself known and famous in all the tribunals and courts almost of all Spain; and that at last he had retired himself to that his castle, where he was sustained with his own and other men’s goods, entertaining in it all knights-errant, of whatsoever quality and condition they were, only for the great affection he bore towards them, and to the end they might divide with him part of their winnings in recompense of his goodwill. He added besides, that there was no chapel in his castle wherein he might watch his arms, for he had broken it down, to build it up anew; but, notwithstanding, he knew very well that in a case of necessity they might lawfully be watched in any other place, and therefore he might watch them that night in the base-court of the castle; for in the morning, an it pleased God, the ceremonies requisite should be done in such sort as he should remain a dubbed knight, in so good fashion as in all the world he could not be bettered. He demanded of Don Quixote whether he had any money; who answered that he had not a blank, for he had never read in any history of knights-errant that any one of them ever carried any money. To this his host replied, that he was deceived; for, admit that histories made no mention thereof, because the authors of them deemed it not necessary to express a thing so manifest and needful to be carried as was money and clean shirts, it was not therefore to be credited that they had none; and therefore he should hold, for most certain and manifest, that all the knights-errant, with the story of whose acts so many books are replenished and heaped, had their purses well lined for that which might befall, and did moreover carry with them a little casket of ointments and salves, to cure the wounds which they received, for they had not the commodity of a surgeon to cure them, every time that they fought abroad in the fields and deserts, if they had not by chance some wise enchanter to their friend, who would presently succour them, bringing unto them, in some cloud, through the air, some damsel or dwarf, with a vial of water of so great virtue, as tasting one drop thereof, they remained as whole of their sores and wounds as if they had never received any. But when they had not that benefit, the knights of times past held it for a very commendable and secure course that their squires should be provided of money and other necessary things, as lint and ointments for to cure themselves; and when it befell that the like knights had no squires to attend upon them (which happened but very seldom), then would they themselves carry all this provision behind them on their horses, in some slight and subtle wallets, which could scarce be perceived as a thing of very great consequence; for, if it were not upon such an occasion, he carriage of wallets was not very tolerable among knights-errant. And in this respect he did advise him, seeing he might yet command him, as one that, by receiving the order of knighthood at his hands, should very shortly become his godchild, that he should not travel from thenceforward without money and other the preventions he had then given unto him; and he should perceive himself how behooveful they would prove unto him when he least expected it.

  Don Quixote promised to accomplish all that he had counselled him to do, with all punctuality; and so order was forthwith given how he should watch his arms in a great yard that lay near unto one side of the inn. Wherefore Don Quixote gathered all his arms together, laid them on a cistern that stood near unto a well; and, buckling on his target, he laid hold on his lance, and walked up and down before the cistern very demurely, and when he began to walk, the night likewise began to lock up the splendour of the day. The innkeeper, in the mean season, recounted to all the rest that lodged in the inn the folly of his guest, the watching of his arms, and the knighthood which he expected to receive. They all admired very much at so strange a kind of folly, and went out to behold him from afar off, and saw that sometimes he pranced to and fro with a quiet gesture; other times, leaning upon his lance, he looked upon his armour, without beholding any other thing save his arms for a good space.

  The night being shut up at last wholly, but with such clearness of the moon as it might well compare with his brightness that lent her her splendour, everything which our new knight did was easily perceived by all the beholders. In this season one of the carriers that lodged in the inn resolved to water his mules, and for that purpose it was necessary to remove Don Quixote’s armour that lay on the cistern; who, seeing him approach, said unto him, with a loud voice, ‘O thou, whosoever thou beest, bold knight! that comest to touch the armour of the most valorous adventurer that ever girded sword, look well what thou dost, and touch them not, if thou meanest not to leave thy life in payment of thy presumption.’ The carrier made no account of those words (but it were better he had, for it would have redounded to his benefit), but rather, laying hold on the leatherings, threw the armour a pretty way off from him, which being perceived by Don Quixote, he lifted up his eyes towards heaven, and addressing his thoughts (as it seemed) to his Lady Dulcinea, he said, ‘Assist me, dear lady, in this first dangerous scorn and adventure offered to this breast, that is enthralled to thee, and let not thy favour and protection fail me in this my first trance!’ And, uttering these and other such words, he let slip his target, and, lifting up his lance with bold hands, he paid the carrier so round a knock therewithal on the pate, as he overthrew him to the ground in so evil taking, as, if he had seconded it with another, he should not have needed any surgeon to cure him. This done, he gathered up his armour again, and laying them where they had been before, he walked after up and down by them, with as much quietness as he did at the first.

  But very soon after, another carrier, without knowing what had happened (for his companion lay yet in a trance on the ground), came also to give his mules water, and coming to take away the arms, that he might free the cistern of encumbrances, and take water the easier—Don Quixote saying nothing nor imploring favour of his mistress or any other, let slip again his target, and, lifting his lance, without breaking of it in pieces, made more than three of the second carrier’s noddle; for he broke it in four places. All the people of the inn, and amongst them the host likewise, repaired at this time to the noise; which Don Quixote perceiving, embracing his target, and laying hand on his sword, he said: ‘O lady of all beauty! courage and vigour of my weakened heart! it is now high time that thou do convert the eyes of thy greatness to this thy captive knight, who doth expect so marvellous great an adventure.’ Saying thus, he recovered, as he thought, so great courage, that if all the carriers of the world had assailed him, he would not go one step backward. The wounded men’s fellows, seeing them so evil dight, from afar off began to rain stones on Don Quixote, who did defend himself the best he might with his target, and durst not depart from the cistern, lest he should seem to abandon his arms. The innkeeper cried to them to let him alone; for he had already informed them that he was mad, and so such a one would escape scot-free although he had slain them all. Don Quixote likewise cried out louder, terming them all disloyal men and traitors, and that the lord of the castle was a treacherous and bad knight, seeing that he consented that knights-errant should be so basely used; and that, if he had not yet received the order of knighthood, he would make him understand his treason: ‘But of you base and rascally kennel,’ quoth he, ‘I make no reckoning at all. Throw at me, approach, draw near, and do me all the hurt you may, for you shall ere long perceive the reward you shall carry for this your madness and outrage.’ Which words he spoke with so great spirit and boldness, as he struck a terrible fear into all those that assaulted him; and therefore, moved both by it, and the innkeeper’s persuasions, they left off throwing stones at him, and he permitted them to carry away the wounded men, and returned to the guard of his arms with as great quietness and gravity as he did at the beginning.

  The innkeeper did not like very much these tricks of his guest, and therefore he determined to abbreviate, and give him the unfortunate order of knighthood forthwith, before some other disaster befel. And with this resolution coming unto him, he excused himself of the insolences those base fellows had used to him, without his privity or consent; but their rashness, as he said, remained well chastised. He added how he had already told unto him, that there was no chapel in his castle, and that for what yet rested unperfected of their intention, it was not necessary, because the chief point of remaining knighted consisted chiefly in blows of the neck and shoulders, as he had read in the ceremonial book of the order, and that might be given in the very midst of the fields; and that he had already accomplished the obligation of watching his arms, which with only two hours’ watch might be fulfilled; how much more after having watched four, as he had done. All this Don Quixote believed, and therefore answered, that he was most ready to obey him, and requested him to conclude with all the brevity possible; for if he saw himself knighted, and were once again assaulted, he meant not to leave one person alive in all the castle, except those which the constable should command, whom he would spare for his sake.

  The constable being thus advertised, and fearful that he would put this his deliberation in execution, brought out a book presently, wherein he was wont to write down the accounts of the straw and barley which he delivered from time to time to such carriers as lodged in his inn, for their beasts; and, with a butt of a candle, which a boy held lighted in his hand before him, accompanied by the two damsels above mentioned, he came to Don Quixote, whom he commanded to kneel upon his knees, and, reading in his manual (as it seemed, some devout orison), he held up his hand in the midst of the lecture, and gave him a good blow on the neck, and after that gave him another trim thwack over the shoulders with his own sword, always murmuring something between the teeth, as if he prayed. This being done, he commanded one of the ladies to gird on his sword, which she did with a singular good grace and dexterity, which was much, the matter being of itself so ridiculous, as it wanted but little to make a man burst with laughter at every passage of the ceremonies; but the prowess which they had already beheld in the new knight did limit and contain their delight. At the girding on of his sword, the good lady said, ‘God make you a fortunate knight, and give you good success in all your debates!’ Don Quixote demanded then how she was called, that he might thenceforward know to whom he was so much obliged for the favour received. And she answered, with great buxomness, that she was named Tolosa, and was a butcher’s daughter of Toledo, that dwelt in Sancho Benega’s Street, and that she would ever honour him as her lord. Don Quixote replied, requesting her, for his sake, to call herself from thenceforth the Lady Tolosa, which she promised him to perform. The other lady buckled on his spur, with whom he had the very like conference, and, asking her name, she told him she was called Molinera, and was daughter to an honest miller of Antequera. Her likewise our knight entreated to call herself the Lady Molinera, proffering her new services and favours. The new and never-seen-before ceremonies being thus, speedily finished, as it seemed, with a gallop, Don Quixote could not rest until he was mounted on horseback, that he might go to seek adventures; wherefore, causing Rozinante to be instantly saddled, he leaped on him, and embracing his host, he said unto him such strange things, gratifying the favour he had done him in dubbing him knight, as it is impossible to hit upon the manner of recounting them right. The innkeeper, that he might be quickly rid of him, did answer his words with others no less rhetorical, but was in his speech somewhat briefer; and, without demanding of him anything for his lodging, he suffered him to depart in a fortunate hour.

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