The illustrations which will be shown in this Don Quixote book series come from the hand of Gustave Dore. This french artist was a child prodigy by the age of 5 and the illustrations he made for Don Quixote editions including in English were originally a French commission. His renderings were so influential they determined the look of Quixote and Sancho Panza in many subsequent illustrated versions, stage and film productions, and of course readers’ imaginations.
Today’s second book excerpt from Don Quixote follows on from the Introduction post where our esteemed duo; the knight-errant ‘Don Quixote de la Mancha’ and his squire ‘Sancho Panza’ (formerly a simple farmer) continue in their courageous journey to revive chivalry and serve their nation. They are of course deluded in their quest since Spain at this time was a post-Chivalric world and therefore their fictional titles and quest were rendered useless by reality. You’ll understand after reading why Don Quixote was usually interpreted as a comic novel although more modern interpretations have looked upon it as a tragedy.
To set the scene for you today as the illustration above testifies Don Quixote and Sancho have just taken a drubbing. They had just stopped to rest and eat lunch, but Quixote’s horse Rocinante wanders off into a herd of mares owned by a group of Yanguesans and tries to mate with them. The Yanguesans then beat Rocinante. Don Quixote then attacks the numerous Yanguesans, and he and Sancho – to not put too finer point on it – lose the battle. Don Quixote blames their defeat on the fact that he drew his sword against non-knights, a clear violation of the chivalric code. The two quarrel about the value that fighting has in the life of a knight-errant. On Don Quixote’s orders, Sancho leads him to an inn on his donkey (see illustration). They arrive at the inn, which sure enough – Don Quixote mistakes for a castle.
This is a longish read, but extremely engaging if I may so – so be sure to tuck-in with a strong coffee and strumpet on hand, oops ‘crumpet’ rather!
OF WHAT HAPPENED TO THE INGENIOUS GENTLEMAN IN THE INN WHICH HE TOOK TO BE A CASTLE
THE innkeeper, seeing Don Quixote slung across the ass, asked Sancho what was amiss with him. Sancho answered that it was nothing, only that he had fallen down from a rock and had his ribs a little bruised. The innkeeper had a wife whose disposition was not such as those of her calling commonly have, for she was by nature kind-hearted and felt for the sufferings of her neighbors, so she at once set about tending Don Quixote, and made her young daughter, a very comely girl, help her in taking care of her guest. There was besides in the inn, a servant, an Asturian lass with a broad face, flat poll, and snub nose, blind of one eye and not very sound in the other. The elegance of her shape, to be sure, made up for all her defects; she did not measure seven palms from head to foot, and her shoulders, which over-weighted her somewhat, made her contemplate the ground more than she liked.
This graceful lass, then, helped the young girl, and the two made up a very bad bed for Don Quixote in a garret that showed evident signs of having formerly served for many years as a straw-loft, in which there was also quartered a carrier whose bed was placed a little beyond our Don Quixote’s, and, though only made of the pack-saddles and cloths of his mules, had much the advantage of it, as Don Quixote’s consisted simply of four rough boards on two not very even trestles, a mattress, that for thinness might have passed for a quilt, full of pellets which, were they not seen through the rents to be wool, would to the touch have seemed pebbles in hardness, two sheets made of buckler leather, and a cover let the threads of which anyone that chose might have counted without missing one in the reckoning.
On this accursed bed Don Quixote stretched himself, and the hostess and her daughter soon covered him with plasters from top to toe, while Maritornes- for that was the name of the Asturian- held the light for them, and while plastering him, the hostess, observing how full of wheals Don Quixote was in some places, remarked that this had more the look of blows than of a fall.
It was not blows, Sancho said, but that the rock had many points and projections, and that each of them had left its mark. “Pray, señora,” he added, “manage to save some tow, as there will be no want of some one to use it, for my loins too are rather sore.” “Then you must have fallen too,” said the hostess.“I did not fall,” said Sancho Panza, “but from the shock I got at seeing my master fall, my body aches so that I feel as if I had had a thousand thwacks.” “That may well be,” said the young girl, “for it has many a time happened to me to dream that I was falling down from a tower and never coming to the ground, and when I awoke from the dream to find myself as weak and shaken as if I had really fallen.”
“There is the point, señora,” replied Sancho Panza, “that I without dreaming at all, but being more awake than I am now, find myself with scarcely less wheals than my master, Don Quixote.”
“How is the gentleman called?” asked Maritornes the Asturian.“Don Quixote of La Mancha,” answered Sancho Panza, “and he is a knight-adventurer, and one of the best and stoutest that have been seen in the world this long time past.” “What is a knight-adventurer?” said the lass. “Are you so new in the world as not to know?” answered Sancho Panza.“Well, then, you must know, sister, that a knight-adventurer is a thing that in two words is seen drubbed and emperor, that is today the most miserable and needy being in the world, and tomorrow will have two or three crowns of kingdoms to give his squire.”
“Then how is it,” said the hostess, “that belonging to so good a master as this, you have not, to judge by appearances, even so much as a county?”
“It is too soon yet,” answered Sancho, “for we have only been a month going in quest of adventures, and so far we have met with nothing that can be called one, for it will happen that when one thing is looked for another thing is found; however, if my master Don Quixote gets well of this wound, or fall, and I am left none the worse of it, I would not change my hopes for the best title in Spain.”
To all this conversation Don Quixote was listening very attentively, and sitting up in bed as well as he could, and taking the hostess by the hand he said to her, “Believe me, fair lady, you may call yourself fortunate in having in this castle of yours sheltered my person, which is such that if I do not myself praise it, it is because of what is commonly said, that self-praise debaseth; but my squire will in-form you who I am. I only tell you that I shall preserve for ever inscribed on my memory the service you have rendered me in order to tender you my gratitude while life shall last me; and would to Heaven love held me not so enthralled and subject to its laws and to the eyes of that fair ingrate whom I name between my teeth, but that those of this lovely damsel might be the masters of my liberty.”
The hostess, her daughter, and the worthy Maritornes listened in bewilderment to the words of the knight-errant; for they understood about as much of them as if he had been talking Greek, though they could perceive they were all meant for expressions of good-will and blandishments; and not being accustomed to this kind of language, they stared at him and wondered to themselves, for he seemed to them a man of a different sort from those they were used to, and thanking him in pothouse phrase for his civility they left him, while the Asturian gave her attention to Sancho, who needed it no less than his master.
The carrier had made an arrangement with her for recreation that night, and she had given him her word that when the guests were quiet and the family asleep she would come in search of him and meet his wishes unreservedly. And it is said of this good lass that she never made promises of the kind without fulfilling them, even though she made them in a forest and without any witness present, for she plumed herself greatly on being a lady and held it no disgrace to be in such an employment as servant in an inn, because, she said, misfortunes and ill-luck had brought her to that position.