Don Quixote - Part I (Chapter IV, page 1 of 5)


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OF WHAT HAPPENED TO OUR KNIGHT WHEN HE LEFT THE INN


Day was dawning when Don Quixote quitted the inn, so happy, so gay, so
exhilarated at finding himself now dubbed a knight, that his joy was like
to burst his horse-girths. However, recalling the advice of his host as
to the requisites he ought to carry with him, especially that referring
to money and shirts, he determined to go home and provide himself with
all, and also with a squire, for he reckoned upon securing a
farm-labourer, a neighbour of his, a poor man with a family, but very
well qualified for the office of squire to a knight. With this object he
turned his horse's head towards his village, and Rocinante, thus reminded
of his old quarters, stepped out so briskly that he hardly seemed to
tread the earth.

He had not gone far, when out of a thicket on his right there seemed to
come feeble cries as of some one in distress, and the instant he heard
them he exclaimed, "Thanks be to heaven for the favour it accords me,
that it so soon offers me an opportunity of fulfilling the obligation I
have undertaken, and gathering the fruit of my ambition. These cries, no
doubt, come from some man or woman in want of help, and needing my aid
and protection;" and wheeling, he turned Rocinante in the direction
whence the cries seemed to proceed. He had gone but a few paces into the
wood, when he saw a mare tied to an oak, and tied to another, and
stripped from the waist upwards, a youth of about fifteen years of age,
from whom the cries came. Nor were they without cause, for a lusty farmer
was flogging him with a belt and following up every blow with scoldings
and commands, repeating, "Your mouth shut and your eyes open!" while the
youth made answer, "I won't do it again, master mine; by God's passion I
won't do it again, and I'll take more care of the flock another time."

Seeing what was going on, Don Quixote said in an angry voice,
"Discourteous knight, it ill becomes you to assail one who cannot defend
himself; mount your steed and take your lance" (for there was a lance
leaning against the oak to which the mare was tied), "and I will make you
know that you are behaving as a coward." The farmer, seeing before him
this figure in full armour brandishing a lance over his head, gave
himself up for dead, and made answer meekly, "Sir Knight, this youth that
I am chastising is my servant, employed by me to watch a flock of sheep
that I have hard by, and he is so careless that I lose one every day, and
when I punish him for his carelessness and knavery he says I do it out of
niggardliness, to escape paying him the wages I owe him, and before God,
and on my soul, he lies."

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