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Chapter 17

  • **Wherein is shown the furthest and highest point which the unexampled courag_f Don Quixote reached or could reach; together with the happily achieve_dventure of the lions**
  • The history tells that when Don Quixote called out to Sancho to bring him hi_elmet, Sancho was buying some curds the shepherds agreed to sell him, an_lurried by the great haste his master was in did not know what to do wit_hem or what to carry them in; so, not to lose them, for he had already pai_or them, he thought it best to throw them into his master's helmet, an_cting on this bright idea he went to see what his master wanted with him. He, as he approached, exclaimed to him:
  • "Give me that helmet, my friend, for either I know little of adventures, o_hat I observe yonder is one that will, and does, call upon me to arm myself."
  • He of the green gaban, on hearing this, looked in all directions, but coul_erceive nothing, except a cart coming towards them with two or three smal_lags, which led him to conclude it must be carrying treasure of the King's, and he said so to Don Quixote. He, however, would not believe him, bein_lways persuaded and convinced that all that happened to him must b_dventures and still more adventures; so he replied to the gentleman, "He wh_s prepared has his battle half fought; nothing is lost by my preparin_yself, for I know by experience that I have enemies, visible and invisible, and I know not when, or where, or at what moment, or in what shapes they wil_ttack me;" and turning to Sancho he called for his helmet; and Sancho, as h_ad no time to take out the curds, had to give it just as it was. Don Quixot_ook it, and without perceiving what was in it thrust it down in hot hast_pon his head; but as the curds were pressed and squeezed the whey began t_un all over his face and beard, whereat he was so startled that he cried ou_o Sancho:
  • "Sancho, what's this? I think my head is softening, or my brains are melting, or I am sweating from head to foot! If I am sweating it is not indeed fro_ear. I am convinced beyond a doubt that the adventure which is about t_efall me is a terrible one. Give me something to wipe myself with, if tho_ast it, for this profuse sweat is blinding me."
  • Sancho held his tongue, and gave him a cloth, and gave thanks to God at th_ame time that his master had not found out what was the matter. Don Quixot_hen wiped himself, and took off his helmet to see what it was that made hi_ead feel so cool, and seeing all that white mash inside his helmet he put i_o his nose, and as soon as he had smelt it he exclaimed:
  • "By the life of my lady Dulcinea del Toboso, but it is curds thou hast pu_ere, thou treacherous, impudent, ill-mannered squire!"
  • To which, with great composure and pretended innocence, Sancho replied, "I_hey are curds let me have them, your worship, and I'll eat them; but let th_evil eat them, for it must have been he who put them there. I dare to dirt_our helmet! You have guessed the offender finely! Faith, sir, by the ligh_od gives me, it seems I must have enchanters too, that persecute me as _reature and limb of your worship, and they must have put that nastiness ther_n order to provoke your patience to anger, and make you baste my ribs as yo_re wont to do. Well, this time, indeed, they have missed their aim, for _rust to my master's good sense to see that I have got no curds or milk, o_nything of the sort; and that if I had it is in my stomach I would put it an_ot in the helmet."
  • "May be so," said Don Quixote. All this the gentleman was observing, and wit_stonishment, more especially when, after having wiped himself clean, hi_ead, face, beard, and helmet, Don Quixote put it on, and settling himsel_irmly in his stirrups, easing his sword in the scabbard, and grasping hi_ance, he cried, "Now, come who will, here am I, ready to try conclusions wit_atan himself in person!"
  • By this time the cart with the flags had come up, unattended by anyone excep_he carter on a mule, and a man sitting in front. Don Quixote planted himsel_efore it and said, "Whither are you going, brothers? What cart is this? Wha_ave you got in it? What flags are those?"
  • To this the carter replied, "The cart is mine; what is in it is a pair of wil_aged lions, which the governor of Oran is sending to court as a present t_is Majesty; and the flags are our lord the King's, to show that what is her_s his property."
  • "And are the lions large?" asked Don Quixote.
  • "So large," replied the man who sat at the door of the cart, "that larger, o_s large, have never crossed from Africa to Spain; I am the keeper, and I hav_rought over others, but never any like these. They are male and female; th_ale is in that first cage and the female in the one behind, and they ar_ungry now, for they have eaten nothing to-day, so let your worship stan_side, for we must make haste to the place where we are to feed them."
  • Hereupon, smiling slightly, Don Quixote exclaimed, "Lion-whelps to me! to m_helps of lions, and at such a time! Then, by God! those gentlemen who sen_hem here shall see if I am a man to be frightened by lions. Get down, my goo_ellow, and as you are the keeper open the cages, and turn me out thos_easts, and in the midst of this plain I will let them know who Don Quixote o_a Mancha is, in spite and in the teeth of the enchanters who send them t_e."
  • "So, so," said the gentleman to himself at this; "our worthy knight has show_f what sort he is; the curds, no doubt, have softened his skull and brough_is brains to a head."
  • At this instant Sancho came up to him, saying, "Senor, for God's sake d_omething to keep my master, Don Quixote, from tackling these lions; for if h_oes they'll tear us all to pieces here."
  • "Is your master then so mad," asked the gentleman, "that you believe and ar_fraid he will engage such fierce animals?"
  • "He is not mad," said Sancho, "but he is venturesome."
  • "I will prevent it," said the gentleman; and going over to Don Quixote, wh_as insisting upon the keeper's opening the cages, he said to him, "Si_night, knights-errant should attempt adventures which encourage the hope of _uccessful issue, not those which entirely withhold it; for valour tha_renches upon temerity savours rather of madness than of courage; moreover, these lions do not come to oppose you, nor do they dream of such a thing; the_re going as presents to his Majesty, and it will not be right to stop them o_elay their journey."
  • "Gentle sir," replied Don Quixote, "you go and mind your tame partridge an_our bold ferret, and leave everyone to manage his own business; this is mine, and I know whether these gentlemen the lions come to me or not;" and the_urning to the keeper he exclaimed, "By all that's good, sir scoundrel, if yo_on't open the cages this very instant, I'll pin you to the cart with thi_ance."
  • The carter, seeing the determination of this apparition in armour, said t_im, "Please your worship, for charity's sake, senor, let me unyoke the mule_nd place myself in safety along with them before the lions are turned out; for if they kill them on me I am ruined for life, for all I possess is thi_art and mules."
  • "O man of little faith," replied Don Quixote, "get down and unyoke; you wil_oon see that you are exerting yourself for nothing, and that you might hav_pared yourself the trouble."
  • The carter got down and with all speed unyoked the mules, and the keepe_alled out at the top of his voice, "I call all here to witness that agains_y will and under compulsion I open the cages and let the lions loose, an_hat I warn this gentleman that he will be accountable for all the harm an_ischief which these beasts may do, and for my salary and dues as well. You, gentlemen, place yourselves in safety before I open, for I know they will d_e no harm."
  • Once more the gentleman strove to persuade Don Quixote not to do such a ma_hing, as it was tempting God to engage in such a piece of folly. To this, Do_uixote replied that he knew what he was about. The gentleman in retur_ntreated him to reflect, for he knew he was under a delusion.
  • "Well, senor," answered Don Quixote, "if you do not like to be a spectator o_his tragedy, as in your opinion it will be, spur your flea-bitten mare, an_lace yourself in safety."
  • Hearing this, Sancho with tears in his eyes entreated him to give up a_nterprise compared with which the one of the windmills, and the awful one o_he fulling mills, and, in fact, all the feats he had attempted in the whol_ourse of his life, were cakes and fancy bread. "Look ye, senor," said Sancho,
  • "there's no enchantment here, nor anything of the sort, for between the bar_nd chinks of the cage I have seen the paw of a real lion, and judging by tha_ reckon the lion such a paw could belong to must be bigger than a mountain."
  • "Fear at any rate," replied Don Quixote, "will make him look bigger to the_han half the world. Retire, Sancho, and leave me; and if I die here tho_nowest our old compact; thou wilt repair to Dulcinea—I say no more." To thes_e added some further words that banished all hope of his giving up his insan_roject. He of the green gaban would have offered resistance, but he foun_imself ill-matched as to arms, and did not think it prudent to come to blow_ith a madman, for such Don Quixote now showed himself to be in every respect; and the latter, renewing his commands to the keeper and repeating his threats, gave warning to the gentleman to spur his mare, Sancho his Dapple, and th_arter his mules, all striving to get away from the cart as far as they coul_efore the lions broke loose. Sancho was weeping over his master's death, fo_his time he firmly believed it was in store for him from the claws of th_ions; and he cursed his fate and called it an unlucky hour when he thought o_aking service with him again; but with all his tears and lamentations he di_ot forget to thrash Dapple so as to put a good space between himself and th_art. The keeper, seeing that the fugitives were now some distance off, onc_ore entreated and warned him as before; but he replied that he heard him, an_hat he need not trouble himself with any further warnings or entreaties, a_hey would be fruitless, and bade him make haste.
  • During the delay that occurred while the keeper was opening the first cage, Don Quixote was considering whether it would not be well to do battle on foot, instead of on horseback, and finally resolved to fight on foot, fearing tha_ocinante might take fright at the sight of the lions; he therefore sprang of_is horse, flung his lance aside, braced his buckler on his arm, and drawin_is sword, advanced slowly with marvellous intrepidity and resolute courage, to plant himself in front of the cart, commending himself with all his hear_o God and to his lady Dulcinea.
  • It is to be observed, that on coming to this passage, the author of thi_eracious history breaks out into exclamations. "O doughty Don Quixote! high- mettled past extolling! Mirror, wherein all the heroes of the world may se_hemselves! Second modern Don Manuel de Leon, once the glory and honour o_panish knighthood! In what words shall I describe this dread exploit, by wha_anguage shall I make it credible to ages to come, what eulogies are ther_nmeet for thee, though they be hyperboles piled on hyperboles! On foot, alone, undaunted, high-souled, with but a simple sword, and that no trenchan_lade of the Perrillo brand, a shield, but no bright polished steel one, ther_toodst thou, biding and awaiting the two fiercest lions that Africa's forest_ver bred! Thy own deeds be thy praise, valiant Manchegan, and here I leav_hem as they stand, wanting the words wherewith to glorify them!"
  • Here the author's outburst came to an end, and he proceeded to take up th_hread of his story, saying that the keeper, seeing that Don Quixote had take_p his position, and that it was impossible for him to avoid letting out th_ale without incurring the enmity of the fiery and daring knight, flung ope_he doors of the first cage, containing, as has been said, the lion, which wa_ow seen to be of enormous size, and grim and hideous mien. The first thing h_id was to turn round in the cage in which he lay, and protrude his claws, an_tretch himself thoroughly; he next opened his mouth, and yawned ver_eisurely, and with near two palms' length of tongue that he had thrust forth, he licked the dust out of his eyes and washed his face; having done this, h_ut his head out of the cage and looked all round with eyes like glowin_oals, a spectacle and demeanour to strike terror into temerity itself. Do_uixote merely observed him steadily, longing for him to leap from the car_nd come to close quarters with him, when he hoped to hew him in pieces.
  • So far did his unparalleled madness go; but the noble lion, more courteou_han arrogant, not troubling himself about silly bravado, after having looke_ll round, as has been said, turned about and presented his hind-quarters t_on Quixote, and very coolly and tranquilly lay down again in the cage. Seein_his, Don Quixote ordered the keeper to take a stick to him and provoke him t_ake him come out.
  • "That I won't," said the keeper; "for if I anger him, the first he'll tear i_ieces will be myself. Be satisfied, sir knight, with what you have done, which leaves nothing more to be said on the score of courage, and do not see_o tempt fortune a second time. The lion has the door open; he is free to com_ut or not to come out; but as he has not come out so far, he will not com_ut to-day. Your worship's great courage has been fully manifested already; n_rave champion, so it strikes me, is bound to do more than challenge his enem_nd wait for him on the field; if his adversary does not come, on him lies th_isgrace, and he who waits for him carries off the crown of victory."
  • "That is true," said Don Quixote; "close the door, my friend, and let me have, in the best form thou canst, what thou hast seen me do, by way of certificate; to wit, that thou didst open for the lion, that I waited for him, that he di_ot come out, that I still waited for him, and that still he did not come out, and lay down again. I am not bound to do more; enchantments avaunt, and Go_phold the right, the truth, and true chivalry! Close the door as I bade thee, while I make signals to the fugitives that have left us, that they may lear_his exploit from thy lips."
  • The keeper obeyed, and Don Quixote, fixing on the point of his lance the clot_e had wiped his face with after the deluge of curds, proceeded to recall th_thers, who still continued to fly, looking back at every step, all in a body, the gentleman bringing up the rear. Sancho, however, happening to observe th_ignal of the white cloth, exclaimed, "May I die, if my master has no_vercome the wild beasts, for he is calling to us."
  • They all stopped, and perceived that it was Don Quixote who was makin_ignals, and shaking off their fears to some extent, they approached slowl_ntil they were near enough to hear distinctly Don Quixote's voice calling t_hem. They returned at length to the cart, and as they came up, Don Quixot_aid to the carter, "Put your mules to once more, brother, and continue you_ourney; and do thou, Sancho, give him two gold crowns for himself and th_eeper, to compensate for the delay they have incurred through me."
  • "That will I give with all my heart," said Sancho; "but what has become of th_ions? Are they dead or alive?"
  • The keeper, then, in full detail, and bit by bit, described the end of th_ontest, exalting to the best of his power and ability the valour of Do_uixote, at the sight of whom the lion quailed, and would not and dared no_ome out of the cage, although he had held the door open ever so long; an_howing how, in consequence of his having represented to the knight that i_as tempting God to provoke the lion in order to force him out, which h_ished to have done, he very reluctantly, and altogether against his will, ha_llowed the door to be closed.
  • "What dost thou think of this, Sancho?" said Don Quixote. "Are there an_nchantments that can prevail against true valour? The enchanters may be abl_o rob me of good fortune, but of fortitude and courage they cannot."
  • Sancho paid the crowns, the carter put to, the keeper kissed Don Quixote'_ands for the bounty bestowed upon him, and promised to give an account of th_aliant exploit to the King himself, as soon as he saw him at court.
  • "Then," said Don Quixote, "if his Majesty should happen to ask who performe_t, you must say THE KNIGHT OF THE LIONS; for it is my desire that into thi_he name I have hitherto borne of Knight of the Rueful Countenance be fro_his time forward changed, altered, transformed, and turned; and in this _ollow the ancient usage of knights-errant, who changed their names when the_leased, or when it suited their purpose."
  • The cart went its way, and Don Quixote, Sancho, and he of the green gaban wen_heirs. All this time, Don Diego de Miranda had not spoken a word, bein_ntirely taken up with observing and noting all that Don Quixote did and said, and the opinion he formed was that he was a man of brains gone mad, and _adman on the verge of rationality. The first part of his history had not ye_eached him, for, had he read it, the amazement with which his words and deed_illed him would have vanished, as he would then have understood the nature o_is madness; but knowing nothing of it, he took him to be rational one moment, and crazy the next, for what he said was sensible, elegant, and wel_xpressed, and what he did, absurd, rash, and foolish; and said he to himself,
  • "What could be madder than putting on a helmet full of curds, and the_ersuading oneself that enchanters are softening one's skull; or what could b_reater rashness and folly than wanting to fight lions tooth and nail?"
  • Don Quixote roused him from these reflections and this soliloquy by saying,
  • "No doubt, Senor Don Diego de Miranda, you set me down in your mind as a foo_nd a madman, and it would be no wonder if you did, for my deeds do not argu_nything else. But for all that, I would have you take notice that I a_either so mad nor so foolish as I must have seemed to you. A gallant knigh_hows to advantage bringing his lance to bear adroitly upon a fierce bul_nder the eyes of his sovereign, in the midst of a spacious plaza; a knigh_hows to advantage arrayed in glittering armour, pacing the lists before th_adies in some joyous tournament, and all those knights show to advantage tha_ntertain, divert, and, if we may say so, honour the courts of their prince_y warlike exercises, or what resemble them; but to greater advantage than al_hese does a knight-errant show when he traverses deserts, solitudes, cross- roads, forests, and mountains, in quest of perilous adventures, bent o_ringing them to a happy and successful issue, all to win a glorious an_asting renown. To greater advantage, I maintain, does the knight-errant sho_ringing aid to some widow in some lonely waste, than the court knigh_allying with some city damsel. All knights have their own special parts t_lay; let the courtier devote himself to the ladies, let him add lustre to hi_overeign's court by his liveries, let him entertain poor gentlemen with th_umptuous fare of his table, let him arrange joustings, marshal tournaments, and prove himself noble, generous, and magnificent, and above all a goo_hristian, and so doing he will fulfil the duties that are especially his; bu_et the knight-errant explore the corners of the earth and penetrate the mos_ntricate labyrinths, at each step let him attempt impossibilities, o_esolate heaths let him endure the burning rays of the midsummer sun, and th_itter inclemency of the winter winds and frosts; let no lions daunt him, n_onsters terrify him, no dragons make him quail; for to seek these, to attac_hose, and to vanquish all, are in truth his main duties. I, then, as it ha_allen to my lot to be a member of knight-errantry, cannot avoid attemptin_ll that to me seems to come within the sphere of my duties; thus it was m_ounden duty to attack those lions that I just now attacked, although I kne_t to be the height of rashness; for I know well what valour is, that it is _irtue that occupies a place between two vicious extremes, cowardice an_emerity; but it will be a lesser evil for him who is valiant to rise till h_eaches the point of rashness, than to sink until he reaches the point o_owardice; for, as it is easier for the prodigal than for the miser to becom_enerous, so it is easier for a rash man to prove truly valiant than for _oward to rise to true valour; and believe me, Senor Don Diego, in attemptin_dventures it is better to lose by a card too many than by a card too few; fo_o hear it said, 'such a knight is rash and daring,' sounds better than 'suc_ knight is timid and cowardly.'"
  • "I protest, Senor Don Quixote," said Don Diego, "everything you have said an_one is proved correct by the test of reason itself; and I believe, if th_aws and ordinances of knight-errantry should be lost, they might be found i_our worship's breast as in their own proper depository and muniment-house; but let us make haste, and reach my village, where you shall take rest afte_our late exertions; for if they have not been of the body they have been o_he spirit, and these sometimes tend to produce bodily fatigue."
  • "I take the invitation as a great favour and honour, Senor Don Diego," replie_on Quixote; and pressing forward at a better pace than before, at about tw_n the afternoon they reached the village and house of Don Diego, or, as Do_uixote called him, "The Knight of the Green Gaban."