Don Quixote - Part II (Chapter VI, page 1 of 3)


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OF WHAT TOOK PLACE BETWEEN DON QUIXOTE AND HIS NIECE AND HOUSEKEEPER; ONE
OF THE MOST IMPORTANT CHAPTERS IN THE WHOLE HISTORY


While Sancho Panza and his wife, Teresa Cascajo, held the above
irrelevant conversation, Don Quixote's niece and housekeeper were not
idle, for by a thousand signs they began to perceive that their uncle and
master meant to give them the slip the third time, and once more betake
himself to his, for them, ill-errant chivalry. They strove by all the
means in their power to divert him from such an unlucky scheme; but it
was all preaching in the desert and hammering cold iron. Nevertheless,
among many other representations made to him, the housekeeper said to
him, "In truth, master, if you do not keep still and stay quiet at home,
and give over roaming mountains and valleys like a troubled spirit,
looking for what they say are called adventures, but what I call
misfortunes, I shall have to make complaint to God and the king with loud
supplication to send some remedy."

To which Don Quixote replied, "What answer God will give to your
complaints, housekeeper, I know not, nor what his Majesty will answer
either; I only know that if I were king I should decline to answer the
numberless silly petitions they present every day; for one of the
greatest among the many troubles kings have is being obliged to listen to
all and answer all, and therefore I should be sorry that any affairs of
mine should worry him."

Whereupon the housekeeper said, "Tell us, senor, at his Majesty's court
are there no knights?"

"There are," replied Don Quixote, "and plenty of them; and it is right
there should be, to set off the dignity of the prince, and for the
greater glory of the king's majesty."

"Then might not your worship," said she, "be one of those that, without
stirring a step, serve their king and lord in his court?"

"Recollect, my friend," said Don Quixote, "all knights cannot be
courtiers, nor can all courtiers be knights-errant, nor need they be.
There must be all sorts in the world; and though we may be all knights,
there is a great difference between one and another; for the courtiers,
without quitting their chambers, or the threshold of the court, range the
world over by looking at a map, without its costing them a farthing, and
without suffering heat or cold, hunger or thirst; but we, the true
knights-errant, measure the whole earth with our own feet, exposed to the
sun, to the cold, to the air, to the inclemencies of heaven, by day and
night, on foot and on horseback; nor do we only know enemies in pictures,
but in their own real shapes; and at all risks and on all occasions we
attack them, without any regard to childish points or rules of single
combat, whether one has or has not a shorter lance or sword, whether one
carries relics or any secret contrivance about him, whether or not the
sun is to be divided and portioned out, and other niceties of the sort
that are observed in set combats of man to man, that you know nothing
about, but I do. And you must know besides, that the true knight-errant,
though he may see ten giants, that not only touch the clouds with their
heads but pierce them, and that go, each of them, on two tall towers by
way of legs, and whose arms are like the masts of mighty ships, and each
eye like a great mill-wheel, and glowing brighter than a glass furnace,
must not on any account be dismayed by them. On the contrary, he must
attack and fall upon them with a gallant bearing and a fearless heart,
and, if possible, vanquish and destroy them, even though they have for
armour the shells of a certain fish, that they say are harder than
diamonds, and in place of swords wield trenchant blades of Damascus
steel, or clubs studded with spikes also of steel, such as I have more
than once seen. All this I say, housekeeper, that you may see the
difference there is between the one sort of knight and the other; and it
would be well if there were no prince who did not set a higher value on
this second, or more properly speaking first, kind of knights-errant;
for, as we read in their histories, there have been some among them who
have been the salvation, not merely of one kingdom, but of many."

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