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Chapter 24

  • **Wherein are related a thousand trifling matters, as trivial as they ar_ecessary to the right understanding of this great history**
  • He who translated this great history from the original written by its firs_uthor, Cide Hamete Benengeli, says that on coming to the chapter giving th_dventures of the cave of Montesinos he found written on the margin of it, i_amete's own hand, these exact words:
  • "I cannot convince or persuade myself that everything that is written in th_receding chapter could have precisely happened to the valiant Don Quixote;
  • and for this reason, that all the adventures that have occurred up to th_resent have been possible and probable; but as for this one of the cave, _ee no way of accepting it as true, as it passes all reasonable bounds. For m_o believe that Don Quixote could lie, he being the most truthful gentlema_nd the noblest knight of his time, is impossible; he would not have told _ie though he were shot to death with arrows. On the other hand, I reflec_hat he related and told the story with all the circumstances detailed, an_hat he could not in so short a space have fabricated such a vast complicatio_f absurdities; if, then, this adventure seems apocryphal, it is no fault o_ine; and so, without affirming its falsehood or its truth, I write it down.
  • Decide for thyself in thy wisdom, reader; for I am not bound, nor is it in m_ower, to do more; though certain it is they say that at the time of his deat_e retracted, and said he had invented it, thinking it matched and tallie_ith the adventures he had read of in his histories." And then he goes on t_ay:
  • The cousin was amazed as well at Sancho's boldness as at the patience of hi_aster, and concluded that the good temper the latter displayed arose from th_appiness he felt at having seen his lady Dulcinea, even enchanted as she was;
  • because otherwise the words and language Sancho had addressed to him deserve_ thrashing; for indeed he seemed to him to have been rather impudent to hi_aster, to whom he now observed, "I, Senor Don Quixote of La Mancha, look upo_he time I have spent in travelling with your worship as very well employed,
  • for I have gained four things in the course of it; the first is that I hav_ade your acquaintance, which I consider great good fortune; the second, tha_ have learned what the cave of Montesinos contains, together with th_ransformations of Guadiana and of the lakes of Ruidera; which will be of us_o me for the Spanish Ovid that I have in hand; the third, to have discovere_he antiquity of cards, that they were in use at least in the time o_harlemagne, as may be inferred from the words you say Durandarte uttere_hen, at the end of that long spell while Montesinos was talking to him, h_oke up and said, 'Patience and shuffle.' This phrase and expression he coul_ot have learned while he was enchanted, but only before he had become so, i_rance, and in the time of the aforesaid emperor Charlemagne. And thi_emonstration is just the thing for me for that other book I am writing, the
  • 'Supplement to Polydore Vergil on the Invention of Antiquities;' for I believ_e never thought of inserting that of cards in his book, as I mean to do i_ine, and it will be a matter of great importance, particularly when I ca_ite so grave and veracious an authority as Senor Durandarte. And the fourt_hing is, that I have ascertained the source of the river Guadiana, heretofor_nknown to mankind."
  • "You are right," said Don Quixote; "but I should like to know, if by God'_avour they grant you a licence to print those books of yours-which I doubt—t_hom do you mean dedicate them?"
  • "There are lords and grandees in Spain to whom they can be dedicated," sai_he cousin.
  • "Not many," said Don Quixote; "not that they are unworthy of it, but becaus_hey do not care to accept books and incur the obligation of making the retur_hat seems due to the author's labour and courtesy. One prince I know wh_akes up for all the rest, and more-how much more, if I ventured to say,
  • perhaps I should stir up envy in many a noble breast; but let this stand ove_or some more convenient time, and let us go and look for some place t_helter ourselves in to-night."
  • "Not far from this," said the cousin, "there is a hermitage, where there live_ hermit, who they say was a soldier, and who has the reputation of being _ood Christian and a very intelligent and charitable man. Close to th_ermitage he has a small house which he built at his own cost, but thoug_mall it is large enough for the reception of guests."
  • "Has this hermit any hens, do you think?" asked Sancho.
  • "Few hermits are without them," said Don Quixote; "for those we see now-a-day_re not like the hermits of the Egyptian deserts who were clad in palm-leaves,
  • and lived on the roots of the earth. But do not think that by praising these _m disparaging the others; all I mean to say is that the penances of those o_he present day do not come up to the asceticism and austerity of forme_imes; but it does not follow from this that they are not all worthy; at leas_ think them so; and at the worst the hypocrite who pretends to be good doe_ess harm than the open sinner."
  • At this point they saw approaching the spot where they stood a man on foot,
  • proceeding at a rapid pace, and beating a mule loaded with lances an_alberds. When he came up to them, he saluted them and passed on withou_topping. Don Quixote called to him, "Stay, good fellow; you seem to be makin_ore haste than suits that mule."
  • "I cannot stop, senor," answered the man; "for the arms you see I carry her_re to be used tomorrow, so I must not delay; God be with you. But if you wan_o know what I am carrying them for, I mean to lodge to-night at the inn tha_s beyond the hermitage, and if you be going the same road you will find m_here, and I will tell you some curious things; once more God be with you;"
  • and he urged on his mule at such a pace that Don Quixote had no time to as_im what these curious things were that he meant to tell them; and as he wa_omewhat inquisitive, and always tortured by his anxiety to learn somethin_ew, he decided to set out at once, and go and pass the night at the in_nstead of stopping at the hermitage, where the cousin would have had the_alt. Accordingly they mounted and all three took the direct road for the inn,
  • which they reached a little before nightfall. On the road the cousin propose_hey should go up to the hermitage to drink a sup. The instant Sancho hear_his he steered his Dapple towards it, and Don Quixote and the cousin did th_ame; but it seems Sancho's bad luck so ordered it that the hermit was not a_ome, for so a sub-hermit they found in the hermitage told them. They calle_or some of the best. She replied that her master had none, but that if the_iked cheap water she would give it with great pleasure.
  • "If I found any in water," said Sancho, "there are wells along the road wher_ could have had enough of it. Ah, Camacho's wedding, and plentiful house o_on Diego, how often do I miss you!"
  • Leaving the hermitage, they pushed on towards the inn, and a little farthe_hey came upon a youth who was pacing along in front of them at no grea_peed, so that they overtook him. He carried a sword over his shoulder, an_lung on it a budget or bundle of his clothes apparently, probably hi_reeches or pantaloons, and his cloak and a shirt or two; for he had on _hort jacket of velvet with a gloss like satin on it in places, and had hi_hirt out; his stockings were of silk, and his shoes square-toed as they wea_hem at court. His age might have been eighteen or nineteen; he was of a merr_ountenance, and to all appearance of an active habit, and he went alon_inging seguidillas to beguile the wearisomeness of the road. As they came u_ith him he was just finishing one, which the cousin got by heart and they sa_an thus—
  • {verse
  • I'm off to the wars
  • For the want of pence,
  • Oh, had I but money
  • I'd show more sense.
  • {verse
  • The first to address him was Don Quixote, who said, "You travel very airily,
  • sir gallant; whither bound, may we ask, if it is your pleasure to tell us?"
  • To which the youth replied, "The heat and my poverty are the reason of m_ravelling so airily, and it is to the wars that I am bound."
  • "How poverty?" asked Don Quixote; "the heat one can understand."
  • "Senor," replied the youth, "in this bundle I carry velvet pantaloons to matc_his jacket; if I wear them out on the road, I shall not be able to make _ecent appearance in them in the city, and I have not the wherewithal to bu_thers; and so for this reason, as well as to keep myself cool, I am making m_ay in this fashion to overtake some companies of infantry that are not twelv_eagues off, in which I shall enlist, and there will be no want of baggag_rains to travel with after that to the place of embarkation, which they sa_ill be Carthagena; I would rather have the King for a master, and serve hi_n the wars, than serve a court pauper."
  • "And did you get any bounty, now?" asked the cousin.
  • "If I had been in the service of some grandee of Spain or personage o_istinction," replied the youth, "I should have been safe to get it; for tha_s the advantage of serving good masters, that out of the servants' hall me_ome to be ancients or captains, or get a good pension. But I, to m_isfortune, always served place-hunters and adventurers, whose keep and wage_ere so miserable and scanty that half went in paying for the starching o_ne's collars; it would be a miracle indeed if a page volunteer ever go_nything like a reasonable bounty."
  • "And tell me, for heaven's sake," asked Don Quixote, "is it possible, m_riend, that all the time you served you never got any livery?"
  • "They gave me two," replied the page; "but just as when one quits a religiou_ommunity before making profession, they strip him of the dress of the orde_nd give him back his own clothes, so did my masters return me mine; for a_oon as the business on which they came to court was finished, they went hom_nd took back the liveries they had given merely for show."
  • "What spilorceria!—as an Italian would say," said Don Quixote; "but for al_hat, consider yourself happy in having left court with as worthy an object a_ou have, for there is nothing on earth more honourable or profitable tha_erving, first of all God, and then one's king and natural lord, particularl_n the profession of arms, by which, if not more wealth, at least more honou_s to be won than by letters, as I have said many a time; for though letter_ay have founded more great houses than arms, still those founded by arms hav_ know not what superiority over those founded by letters, and a certai_plendour belonging to them that distinguishes them above all. And bear i_ind what I am now about to say to you, for it will be of great use an_omfort to you in time of trouble; it is, not to let your mind dwell on th_dverse chances that may befall you; for the worst of all is death, and if i_e a good death, the best of all is to die. They asked Julius Caesar, th_aliant Roman emperor, what was the best death. He answered, that which i_nexpected, which comes suddenly and unforeseen; and though he answered like _agan, and one without the knowledge of the true God, yet, as far as sparin_ur feelings is concerned, he was right; for suppose you are killed in th_irst engagement or skirmish, whether by a cannon ball or blown up by mine,
  • what matters it? It is only dying, and all is over; and according to Terence,
  • a soldier shows better dead in battle, than alive and safe in flight; and th_ood soldier wins fame in proportion as he is obedient to his captains an_hose in command over him. And remember, my son, that it is better for th_oldier to smell of gunpowder than of civet, and that if old age should com_pon you in this honourable calling, though you may be covered with wounds an_rippled and lame, it will not come upon you without honour, and that such a_overty cannot lessen; especially now that provisions are being made fo_upporting and relieving old and disabled soldiers; for it is not right t_eal with them after the fashion of those who set free and get rid of thei_lack slaves when they are old and useless, and, turning them out of thei_ouses under the pretence of making them free, make them slaves to hunger,
  • from which they cannot expect to be released except by death. But for th_resent I won't say more than get ye up behind me on my horse as far as th_nn, and sup with me there, and to-morrow you shall pursue your journey, an_od give you as good speed as your intentions deserve."
  • The page did not accept the invitation to mount, though he did that to suppe_t the inn; and here they say Sancho said to himself, "God be with you for _aster; is it possible that a man who can say things so many and so good as h_as said just now, can say that he saw the impossible absurdities he report_bout the cave of Montesinos? Well, well, we shall see."
  • And now, just as night was falling, they reached the inn, and it was no_ithout satisfaction that Sancho perceived his master took it for a real inn,
  • and not for a castle as usual. The instant they entered Don Quixote asked th_andlord after the man with the lances and halberds, and was told that he wa_n the stable seeing to his mule; which was what Sancho and the cousi_roceeded to do for their beasts, giving the best manger and the best place i_he stable to Rocinante.