And the GhostsPart I"This grass, my good master," said Sancho Panza, "proves beyond all contradiction that there must be some spring or rivulet hereabouts by which it is watered. And therefore, we had better proceed a little farther until we find where we can allay our terrible thirst which is more painful and fatiguing than hunger alone."
This advice appearing rational to Don Quixote, so he took hold of Rosinante's bridle, and, after he had loaded him again with the fragments of their supper, with Sancho leading Dapple by the halter --- they began to move father into the meadow, slowly, for the night was so dark and they could not distinguish one object from another.
But they had not gone two hundred paces when their ears were greeted with a prodigious noise of water that seemed to rush down from some huge, lofty rock. They were infinitely stunned at the sound and --- halting to listen --- wondered where it came from.
Then they were suddenly surprised with yet another kind of noise that soon damped the pleasure of the faint-hearted. They heard the sound of regular strokes, accompanied by strange clanking as if of iron chains, which --- added to the dreadful din of the cataract ---would have smote the heart of any other but Don Quixote with fear and consternation.
The night, as we have already observed, was dark. Our travelers happened at this time to be in a grove of tall trees whose leaves, moved gently by the wind, yielded a sort of dreary whisper so that the solitude of the place, the darkness of the night, the noise of the water, and rustling of the leaves concurred to inspire them with horror and dismay --- the more so as the strokes continued, the wind sighed on, and the morning was far off. All these circumstances were aggravated by their ignorance of where they were.
But Don Quixote, encouraged by his intrepid heart, mounted Rosinante, braced his shield, and brandished his lance.
"Friend Sancho," he cried, "know that I was born by heaven's appointment in these iron times to revive the age of gold, or (as it is usually called) the Golden Age. I am he for whom strange perils, valiant deeds, and vast adventures are reserved! I am he, I say, ordained to re-establish the Knights of the Round Table, the Twelve Peers of France, with the Nine Worthies! I am he whose feats shall bury in oblivion the Platirs, Tablantes, Olivantes, and Tirantes --- the Febuses and Belianises --- together with the whole tribe of knights-
errant who lived in former times performing such acts!
"Consider well, thou true and loyal squire, the darkness and these trees, the dreadful din of that water we came to seek (which seems to rush and rumble down from the lofty mountains of the moon); together circumstances united, or each singly by itself, is sufficient to infuse fear, terror and dismay into the breast of Mars himself --- much more in him who is altogether unaccustomed to such adventures and events.
"Yet, all I have described are only incentives that awaken my courage and cause my heart to rebound within my breast with desire to achieve this adventure, howsoever difficult it may appear to be!
"Therefore, straighten Rosinante's girth, recommend thyself to God, and wait for me in this place, three days at the most, within which time, if I come not back, go thou from hence to Toboso and inform my incomparable mistress Dulcinea that her captive knight died in attempting things that might render him worthy to be called her lover."
When Sancho heard these last words of his master, he began to blubber with incredible tenderness. "I cannot conceive," said he, "why your worship should attempt such a terrible adventure. It is now dark, and nobody sees us. Therefore, we may turn out of this road and avoid the danger though we should not taste liquor these three days. And if nobody sees us, we run no risk of being accused of cowardice. Besides, I have heard the curate of our town, whom your worship knows very well, remark, in his preaching, he that seeketh danger perisheth therein.
"Therefore it must be a sin to tempt God by engaging in this rash exploit from whence there is no escaping without a miracle --- and heaven hath wrought enough of them already in preserving you ... bringing you off conqueror of sound wind and limb from the midst of so many adversaries as accompanied a dead man.
"And if all this will not move you nor soften your rugged heart, surely you will relent when you consider that your worship will be scarce gone from hence when I shall, through pure fear, yield my life to any thing that may choose to take it.
"I left my habitation, wife and children, to come and serve your worship, believing it would be the better, not the worse for me so to do; but, as the greediness bursts the bag, so is the bag of my hopes bursted. For when they are at the highest pitch in expectation of that curséd unlucky island your worship had promised me so often, I find, in lieu of that, you want to make me amends by leaving me in this desert removed from all human footsteps.
"For the love of God dear master, do me not such wrong. Or, if your worship is resolved to attempt this achievement, at any rate at least delay it till morning which --- according to the signs I learned when I was shepherd --- will appear in less than three hours for the muzzle of the bear, is at top of his head, and shews midnight in the line of the left paw."
"How can'st thou perceive, said Don Quixote, "that line or head, or muzzle thou talkest of; when the night is so dark, that there is not a star to be seen?"
"It is so," answered Sancho, "but fear hath many eyes, and I can at present behold things that are hid within the bowels of the earth; can easily foretell that it will soon be day."
"Let it come when it will," answered Don Quixote, "it shall not be said of me, either now, or at any other time, that I was diverted by tears and entreaties from doing what I owed to the customs of chivalry. I therefore beseech thee, Sancho, to hold thy peace. For God who has put it in my heart to attempt this dreadful and unseen adventure will doubtless take care of my safety, and comfort thee in thy affliction. Thy business at present is to gird fast Rosinante and remain in this place; for, dead or alive, I will soon return."
Sancho finding this was the final resolution of his master and how little all his tears, advice, and entreaties availed, determined to make use of stratagem to detain the knight, if possible, till morning. With this purpose, under pretense of adjusting the girth of Rosinante, he fair and softly, without being perceived, tied two of the horse's feet together with the halter of the ass in such a manner that when Don Quixote attempted to depart, he found it impossible, because his steed could move no otherwise than by leaps.
The squire perceiving the success of his invention, said, "Sir, you may see that heaven, melted by my tears and prayers, hath ordained that Rosinante shall not stir. And if you obstinately persist in spurring and driving him on you will only give offence to providence and, as the saying goes, kick against the pricks."
The knight actually despaired of making Rosinante go forward because the more he goaded the horse, the less was he inclined to stir. And therefore, without guessing of the existence of the ligature, he thought proper to submit and wait with patience either until morning, or such time as Rosinante should recover the use of his limbs --- believing for certain that his disappointment was owing to another cause rather than the craft of his squire. He said to Sancho, "Since Rozinante is incapable of moving, I am content to wait for dawn though I cannot help lamenting its delay."
"You shall have no cause for lamentation," answered Sancho: "I will entertain your worship with telling stories till day, unless you choose to alight and take a nap on the soft grass according to the custom of knights-errant that you may find yourself refreshed when day breaks, and ready to undertake this unconscionable adventure that awaits you."
"Talk not to me of alighting or sleeping, "said Don Quixote. "Dost thou imagine me to be one of those knights who seek their repose in times of danger? Sleep thou, who was born to sleep, or follow thy own inclinations. For my own part I will behave as becomes a person of my pretensions."
"Let not your worship be offended, for that was not my intention when I spoke," answered Sancho, who, coming close to him, laid hold of the saddle before and behind and stood embracing his master's left thigh without daring to stir a finger's breadth from the spot --- such was the consternation inspired by the strokes which all this time sounded alternately in his ears.
Then Don Quixote asked him to entertain him with some story. "I would with all my heart," said Sancho, "if the dread of what I hear would allow me. But nevertheless I will try to force out one story which, if I hit it aright, without letting it slip through my hands, is the best tale that ever was told. Therefore, I would have your worship be attentive, for thus I begin.
"There was so there was the good, that shall fall betide us all, and he that seeks evil, may he meet with the devil... (Your worship may notice that the beginning of ancient tales is not just what comes into the head of the teller. No, they always began with some saying of Cato the censer of Rome, like this: He that seeks evil, may he meet with the devil.)
"Thus truly it comes as pat to the purpose as the ring to my finger, in order to persuade your worship to remain where you are without going in search of evil in any manner or way, or else to turn into another road since we are not bound to follow this in which we have been surprised with fear and terror..."
"Follow thy story, Sancho," said Don Quixote, "and as to the road we have to follow, leave the care of that to me."
"To proceed then," said Sancho: "In a certain village of Estremadura there lived a certain goat-shepherd. I mean, one that kept goats. And this shepherd or goat-herd (as the story goes) was called Lope Ruíz.
"And it came to pass that this Lope Ruíz fell in love with a shepherdess whose name was Torralva which shepherdess --- whose name was Torralva --- was the daughter of a rich herdsman. And this rich herdsman..."
"If thou tallest thy tale in this manner," cried Don Quixote, "repeating every circumstance twice over, it will not be finished these two days! Proceed therefore connectedly, and rehearse it like a man of understanding. Otherwise, thou hadst better hold thy tongue!"
"In my country," answered Sancho, "all the old stories are told in this manner, and I cannot tell it in any other way. Nor is it civil for your worship to try to change the custom."
"Take thy own way," said the knight, "and since it is the will of fate that I should hear thee, pray go on."
"Well then, good master of mine," proceeded Sancho, "that same shepherd, as I have already remarked, fell in love with the shepherdess Torralva, who was a thick, brawny wench, a little coy, and somewhat masculine, for she wore a sort of mustache. As I say that, I think I see her now for all the world in front of me."
"Then thou knewest her?" said the knight.
"Not I," answered the squire, "but the person who told me the story said it was so true and certain that if ever I should chance to tell it again I might affirm upon oath that I had seen it with my own eyes... "And so, in process of time, the devil --- who never sleeps, but wants to have a finger in every pie --- managed matters in such a manner that the shepherd's love for the shepherdess was turned into malice and deadly hate. And the cause, according to evil tongues, was a certain quantity of small jealousy that she gave him, exceeding all bounds and measure.
"And such was the abhorrence the shepherd conceived for her from that good day forward, that, in order to avoid the sight of her, he resolved to absent himself from his own country and go where he should never set eyes on her again. But Torralva, finding herself despised by Lope, began to love him more than ever."
"That is the natural disposition of the sex," said Don Quixote --- "to disdain those who adore them, and love those by whom they are abhorred. But... proceed Sancho."
"It so fell out, "said Sancho, "that the shepherd put his resolution in practice, and driving his goats before him, travelled though the plains of Estremadura, towards the kingdom of Portugal. Torralva having got an inkling of his design, was soon at his heels, following him on foot, aye, and barefoot too, with a pilgrim's staff in her hand, and a wallet at her back, in which, as the report goes, she carried a bit of a looking-glass, a broken comb, and a kind of vial of wash for her complexion. But, howsomever, whether she carried these things or not, I shall not, at present, take upon myself to swear to, but only to say what is recorded, that the shepherd came with his flock to the river Guadiana which at that time was very high, having almost forsaken its channel.
"And finding at the place neither boat nor bark to carry himself and his flock to the other side, he was very much in the dumps, because he saw Torralva behind him and knew what he must suffer from her tears and complaints. But, looking about, he at last perceived hard by him a fisherman in a boat that was so small as to contain only one person and one goat. Nevertheless, they struck up a bargain by which the man was to ferry over the shepherd with his three hundred goats.
"Accordingly, the fisherman took one goat into the boat, and carried it over; then he returned and carried over another, then he returned again to fetch another. Pray good your worship, keep an exact account of the goats as the fisherman ferried them over, for if one only should be lost in the reckoning, the story will break off and it will be impossible for me to relate one word more.
"To be short then, I say, the landing-place on the other side being full of mud and slippery was a great hindrance to the fisherman in his going and coming; but, however, he returned for the other goats, and then for some more, and then for another."
"Suppose them all passed over at once," said Don Quixote," for if thou goest backwards and forwards in this manner thou wilt not have them all ferried over in a year."
"How many have already passed?" said the squire.
"How the devil should I know?" answered the knight.
"Did not I tell you to keep a good account?" said Sancho. Now before God the tale is at an end, and it is impossible to proceed."
"How can that be?" said Don Quixote, "that it is so essential to the story to know the number of goats as they passed so precisely, and that if I misreckon one, thou canst not proceed?"
"Certainly, sir," said Sancho, "I can proceed in no manner of way. For when I desired your worship to tell me what number of goats had passed and you answered you did not know --- at that instant the whole of the story that remained untold, vanished from my remembrance. And --- upon my conscience! it was very curious and entertaining."
"At that rate then, the story is at an end?" asked Don Quixote.
"As much at an end," replied the squire, "as the mother that bore me."
"In good sooth," resumed the knight, "thou hast related the strangest fable, tale, or story that ever was invented --- and finished thy relation in such a manner as never was, or will be heard again in this world. But nothing else was to be expected from thy sound judgment, and, indeed, it is a matter of no admiration with me. Because, I take it for granted that these incessant strokes have disordered thy understanding."
"Not unlikely," said Sancho. "But this I know ... that there is no more to be said of the tale, which ended in that place, where the mistake began, about the passage of the goats.."
"In good time, end it according to thy own pleasure," replied the knight. "And now let us see if Rosinante will move." So saying, he began again to spur, and the horse to leap, without moving from his station, so effectually had Sancho fettered him.