Don Quixote - Part I (Chapter I, page 1 of 4)


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WHICH TREATS OF THE CHARACTER AND PURSUITS OF THE FAMOUS GENTLEMAN DON
QUIXOTE OF LA MANCHA


In a village of La Mancha, the name of which I have no desire to call to
mind, there lived not long since one of those gentlemen that keep a lance
in the lance-rack, an old buckler, a lean hack, and a greyhound for
coursing. An olla of rather more beef than mutton, a salad on most
nights, scraps on Saturdays, lentils on Fridays, and a pigeon or so extra
on Sundays, made away with three-quarters of his income. The rest of it
went in a doublet of fine cloth and velvet breeches and shoes to match
for holidays, while on week-days he made a brave figure in his best
homespun. He had in his house a housekeeper past forty, a niece under
twenty, and a lad for the field and market-place, who used to saddle the
hack as well as handle the bill-hook. The age of this gentleman of ours
was bordering on fifty; he was of a hardy habit, spare, gaunt-featured, a
very early riser and a great sportsman. They will have it his surname was
Quixada or Quesada (for here there is some difference of opinion among
the authors who write on the subject), although from reasonable
conjectures it seems plain that he was called Quexana. This, however, is
of but little importance to our tale; it will be enough not to stray a
hair's breadth from the truth in the telling of it.

You must know, then, that the above-named gentleman whenever he was at
leisure (which was mostly all the year round) gave himself up to reading
books of chivalry with such ardour and avidity that he almost entirely
neglected the pursuit of his field-sports, and even the management of his
property; and to such a pitch did his eagerness and infatuation go that
he sold many an acre of tillageland to buy books of chivalry to read, and
brought home as many of them as he could get. But of all there were none
he liked so well as those of the famous Feliciano de Silva's composition,
for their lucidity of style and complicated conceits were as pearls in
his sight, particularly when in his reading he came upon courtships and
cartels, where he often found passages like "the reason of the unreason
with which my reason is afflicted so weakens my reason that with reason I
murmur at your beauty;" or again, "the high heavens, that of your
divinity divinely fortify you with the stars, render you deserving of the
desert your greatness deserves." Over conceits of this sort the poor
gentleman lost his wits, and used to lie awake striving to understand
them and worm the meaning out of them; what Aristotle himself could not
have made out or extracted had he come to life again for that special
purpose. He was not at all easy about the wounds which Don Belianis gave
and took, because it seemed to him that, great as were the surgeons who
had cured him, he must have had his face and body covered all over with
seams and scars. He commended, however, the author's way of ending his
book with the promise of that interminable adventure, and many a time was
he tempted to take up his pen and finish it properly as is there
proposed, which no doubt he would have done, and made a successful piece
of work of it too, had not greater and more absorbing thoughts prevented
him.

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